Our Latest Wellbeing Initiative: Sustainable, Eco-Friendly & Vegan Care Packages on a Pandemic Budget

08 July 2020 by Rachel Frost
blog author

Three months down the line into lockdown, I’ve been feeling the burn of not seeing most of my colleagues in so long. At Acre, we’re pretty social – we’re big on drinks in the pub or in the bar at the office, playing rounders in the park, coming together for cake at birthdays and summer parties. Not being able to do that sucks for all of us, especially when the cultural aspect of your job is one of your favourite things about it!

I got to thinking about how we could bring people together in a budget-friendly and COVID-appropriate way, beyond a pub quiz on a skype call, so I started looking into helpful promotional items we could send to the team; this then developed into care packages.

A few conversations down the line and with support, strict budget and sign off from our CEO & Founder I was on my way, with a fairly obvious caveat; this has to be environmentally friendly.

As a group of sustainability recruiters, our team are all pretty on-brand in that respect, and I don’t think anyone would’ve appreciated a pile of plastic turning up on the doorstep. I sourced nine products in the end, all of which had great sustainability credentials, be that plastic-free, zero waste, ethically sourced, vegan – or all of the above.

Here are the products we settled on:

1.    Baukjen Face Masks | Click here

Following the announcement that they would be mandatory on public transport in the UK, we chose BAUKJEN face masks as a practical and helpful gift, and because of their excellent sustainability credentials.

They’re organic, reusable, ethically sourced – and as I found out when they arrived, totally beautiful and soft! It’s always good to know where your products come from, and these makes are made in a family-run factory in Portugal. 

2.    Zero-Waste, Plastic-Free Hand Sanitiser | Click here

Wearth always has an amazing selection of eco-friendly products - but this was actually the only hand sanitizer I could find anywhere online that was totally zero-waste. With packaging made from recycled glass and aluminium, this one was a winner all around – and totally practical for those trips back into the office (whenever they may be!)  

3.    Sleep Scented Isle of Skye Candles | Click here

It’s been widely reported in the news that sleep has taken a hit for most of us throughout lockdown. We looked into sending pillow spray and struggled to find something which was a} not packaged in plastic b} suitable for posting {glass isn’t always great} and c} budget-friendly, so we decided on a candle instead. 

I’m so glad we did, as these candles smell glorious. They’re crafted from completely renewable soy wax, and the environment is as important to the Isle of Skye candle company as it is to us. We went for the ‘travel tins’ which were again really postal-friendly and plastic-free. 

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4.    The Happy Newspaper | Click here

The Happy Newspaper is personally my favourite item in the box. Written and produced by a small business owner in the UK, Emily Coxhead, this big ‘ol dose of positivity is what we all need right now. It’s packed full of little environmental wins and examples of the good still going on in the world. 

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5.    GrowMe Boxes | Click here

As another way of bringing us all together, we’ve kicked off a global sunflower growing competition. These little ‘Be Happy’ sunflower boxes from Gift Republic are great – no plastic, no waste, and giving us all some green shoots to nurture from home! We also tried to order the basil kits for some lockdown cooking but to no avail - we settled on the equally appropriate ‘Many Thanks' boxes.  

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6.    Conscious Chocolate | Click here

Appealing to Andy, our founder, and his constant need to be fed – snacks were a must. I settled on conscious chocolate, and the clue is in the name. This vegan, gluten-free raw 75% dark chocolate is absolutely glorious and available in a ton of flavours. It’s produced in the UK, with ethically sourced ingredients, and packaged in biodegradable packaging. 

7.    Candy Kitten Sweets | Click here

Further indulging Andy in his snacks, I went for a variety of flavours of Candy Kittens - another local, UK supplier of vegan and vegetarian goodness. Whilst this was the only bit of plastic which snuck into the box, the bags can be recycled at stations in most large supermarkets. 

I ordered some of these directly from Candy Kittens, but as they’re in heavy demand {because they’re just SO good} I also ordered from mighty-small, a great online supermarket which only sells from local and independent brands. 

8.    Loch Ness Bakery Biscuits | Click here

I spotted these biscuits on ‘the vegan kind’, another online supermarket, and they looked too good to be true. They’re incredibly reasonable in price, from an entirely vegan range/bakery, and delicious. They’re also not too weighty – which is great from a postal-cost perspective. I ordered directly from the bakery as we needed a ton of packs, and they were super helpful. 

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9.    Gift Cards | Click here

I designed some gift cards which we ordered from hatch print on their seedling paper, which can be planted and grows into either ‘wild meadow flowers’ or a ‘wild herb garden’. These definitely aren’t the cheapest option out there, but they were so well received - I would definitely recommend making the investment! 

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Sustainable Packaging:

Postal Boxes | Click here

I waited until our items had all arrived before deciding what size postal boxes to order, just to make sure everything fitted and we wouldn’t be left with a ton of spare space to fill. In the end, I ordered cardboard 75% recycled postal boxes online for this. These are totally recyclable and really easy to assemble and to store until you need to send them. What’s also a bonus is that in the size we ordered, 36 x 28 x 8cm, they still fit small parcel criteria with most carriers. 

Recyclable Tape | Click here

I felt truly awful about coating all of the lovely, sustainable goodies in more plastic and went on the hunt for a recyclable option.

I saw this incredibly cute brown paper parcel tape on Etsy, made by Nikki McWilliams, and couldn’t resist. It’s printed in the UK on kraft paper with eco-friendly water-soluble inks - I was more excited to see the tape arrive than all of the other presents! 

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DIY Packing Materials

You’ll need something to stop your products moving around inside the boxes and getting damaged in transit. I naively didn’t think about this until the day we were packing them up for postage.

Sitting in my living room surrounded by mountains of cardboard which I’d have been truly embarrassed to throw away, I took myself off to Argos to buy a {hefty capacity} shredder and it was actually one of my favourite things about the project!

We weren’t left with a shred of waste, no pun intended, and it was really satisfying to know it’d all been recycled effectively. 

My Advice

This all sounds like a lovely project, and by the end when I saw the parcels bringing a smile to people’s faces, it definitely was!

That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t without its headaches, so here are the top tips to help navigate this project yourself.

  1. You’re going to need some storage, and some time

Things don’t always turn up as quickly as you’d hoped when you buy them in bulk.

You’ll need some space to stash stuff in for a week or two whilst it arrives, and somewhere to set up a production line to send them out.

For reference: here’s my living room on packing day. Not for those faint-of-heart and fond of a clean house. After a 7 hour day of packing between myself and Sean Desouza, I’m still finding cardboard under my sofa a week later.  

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2. Order things which aren’t too heavy

Be mindful that things like books or big packs of sweets would be heavy and take up a lot of space in your boxes – which will drive up your shipping costs. Try and stick to lightweight items, like our seedboxes! 

3. Price up your shipping and include it in your budget 

I used Transglobal Express which ended up being the most cost-effective solution – but shipping isn’t cheap. It’ll add £5 per parcel to your project, and you can times that by 3-4 if you’re hoping for fast shipping overseas. 

 In terms of time, it was also pretty efficient - You’ll need to upload a spreadsheet of all of your delivery addresses, and hey presto – a quote appears, as does all of your shipping information, and they can collect all of the parcels from your house the next day providing you’re within a certain radius. London is fine! ​

4. Buy in bulk, negotiate trade prices 

I was ordering between 45 and a hundred of everything for our care packages – which called for some negotiation. After emailing all of the suppliers I managed to get a discount/trade price for almost everything we bought, which really helped to make sure everyone got a bigger box full of goodies! 

So, all of that said, I think this was one of my favourite Acre projects yet.

It was so nice to see all of the photos of the care packages flood in as they arrived as a surprise delivery on people’s doorsteps over the weekend! As Harco, our Managing Director in Amsterdam said; 

"This is what makes Acre so amazing; a company that exceeds all expectations when it comes to putting people first and foremost.

Promotional gifts and company presents can be sustainable, cruelty-free and truly valuable! It is so often not about money, but about focus. Putting your teams first will get you the results!"

Thanks for the help with delivering this project Sean Desouza and Laura Imbrogno, and thanks to Andy Cartland and Richard Wright for the backing & support!

If this post has got you thinking about a career in Ethical Trade, get in touch or click here to browse the latest opportunities we are recruiting for.