WHAT MAKES US DIFFERENT
At Zero Waste Path Shop, we really care about finding the best natural ingredients out there, and in having the most sustainable possible plastic free packaging. However, that’s not it! We also put great attention into the production phase, ensuring that all of our supplies and production processes respect our values, and every little choice up to the smallest detail is taken with a view of having the greatest possible sustainability in the final product. Of course, starting our business we soon realised how many obstacles there are for small producers, but we promise you that as we grow, we will continue to improve! The most important value for us is transparency, and for this reason, we share all the behind the scenes on our website and social media channels, this includes both the ones we’re proud of (most of them) as well as the ones that are still “imperfect”. Nothing hidden here!
Producing soap bars, shampoo bars, lotions, deodorants and balms require a great deal of equipment! Ideally, we always try to source our production equipment second hand, plastic-free, local and/or ethically made. Of course, this is not always possible, and sometimes we have to give up one of these qualities to have the other. Here’s the list of all the equipment we use in our small business, along with some information on how we sourced them:
Soap Moulds - We use silicone-lined wooden moulds, each holding 24 soaps. We chose silicone lined moulds as non-lined ones require the use of lining paper, creating a lot of non-recyclable waste. The moulds also come with plastic dividers. Every component of the moulds is handmade in Manchester, UK, by The Moulds Shop
Stainless Steel Lye Tank - We recently bought a lye tank, which is going to speed up our production process a lot! Unfortunately, we were not able to find a lye tank with temperature control in Europe, so we had to buy one from Soap Equipment, a shop based in the US. The Lye tank is made of heavy duty stainless steel, and is manufactured in the US.
Hand Blender - Our hand blender was bought refurbished in an electronics store in Edinburgh, and we have been using the same, sturdy hand blender since day one!
Stainless Steel Bowls - We use a range of stainless steel bowls in our production process. All of the bowls were sourced from Ikea, and they are 100% stainless steel.
Whisk - We use a whisk to hand mix our ingredients for deodorants, and this was purchased second hand.
Pistol Funnels - We recently purchased two piston funnels to help us pour deodorants and balms into tins. These were bought on Amazon, and are 100% stainless steel (except for the little piston).
Glassware - In our production process, we sometimes use glassware. This includes some simple glass from IKEA, which are made in Spain. We also use a bowl and a measuring jug from Pyrex, which are made in France. All of the glassware was bought new in the past year.
Work Goggles - To keep our eyes safe in the production process, we use some plastic work goggles. These were bought new on Amazon, and we have used the same one since starting our business
Thermometer - To check temperatures in the production of soaps and shampoos, we use an x-ray thermometer, which was bought new off Amazon. It’s very sturdy, and we think it’s going to last us a long time!
Aprons - We also use aprons in our production. These aprons are 100% cotton, and we bought them from IKEA when we first moved to the UK. We never really used them at home, and we gave them a new life using them among our production equipment!
Gloves - We use natural rubber, fair-trade gloves. These usually last us a couple of months per pair! In addition, we sometimes have friends giving us unused (still-sealed) plastic gloves that would otherwise be thrown away, and we sometimes use those too!
The Soapery - We source the majority of our ingredients, inclusing almost all essential oils, from The Soapery, a local business based in Ipswich, about 90km from Cambridge. At the Soapery, they always do their best to have ethical suppliers: for example, their Organic Shea Butter is sourced from a women-led cooperative in Ghana. In addition, they let us bring back most of our used packaging (such as buckets and jugs), which is sterilised and used again! For what regards their packaging, they receive their coconut oil and shea butter from the producers wrapped in 25kg non-recyclable plastic bags. At the moment there is no alternative, as plastic is the only material that prevents leaks in transport, but, as the Soapery normally ship to us plastic free, this is only the waste created.
Oils4Life - We get some less common essential oils from Oils4Life, which is an amazing UK company based in Norfolk! Even though they've grown a lot in the years they remain very kind and always happily ship to us plastic-free. We have started buying from them more recently so we yet have to ask them if they'd be willing to accept the containers back. That said we're very happy to work with them, and they always ship their essential oils in metal bottles (even the 1 litre ones, which is quite rare)!
Sainsbury’s - We source our Olive Oil from Sainsbury. We tried other solutions in the past, but we realised that Sainsbury’s is the only place where we can easily find European extra virgin olive oil (from Spain) in a metal tin. We initially used Pomace Olive Oil, but we soon changed, as extracting olive oil from the pulp necessitates the use of polluting solvents.
Summer Naturals - Most of our clays come from Summer Naturals, owned by the same amazing woman who runs the Moulds Shop. It is a family business, and they really put great care in selecting their supplies, which results in all their ingredient being top quality! Unfortunately, clays always come in plastic packaging, and for this reason we always try to buy the largest possible package (to make it last several months), in order to reduce the overall plastic waste.
The Soap Kitchen - We order our Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) from The Soap Kitchen. Unfortunately, because of safety regulations, lye can only be shipped in 1kg bottles sealed in a big plastic bag, and this implies quite a lot of waste. We also order our Candelilla wax from the Soap Kitchen, and, as most waxes do, this comes in plastic. Still, we buy this in 5kg bags so that it can last a while! The Soap Kitchen is quite good with shipping packaging, as they ship using cardboard boxes sealed with paper tape
Soap and Shampoo Boxes - We recently switched from labels to boxes as it was impossible for me to label all the products on my own, especially since we didn't want to use sticky labels or tape to close them as they imply even more unneeded non recyclable waste. The boxes are made with 100% recycled cardboard by Giulio's family in Italy. We know where the cardboard is manufactured in Italy and exactly how and where the boxes are made by Giulio's family. In addition to this they ship us plastic-free using paper bands instead of plastic ones (like other companies do). They ship them in large quantities so that the overall emissions are reduced! Another positive thing of changing packaging is that it has reduced (if not eliminated) the damages that sometimes happen to our bars during shipping, which was a problem especially for wholesale orders!
Lotions Labels - These labels come in 100% recycled, unbleached paper that we receive plastic free from Eco Craft, a British supplier of recycled paper. We print the labels ourselves at home, using a printer with a continuous ink system. This is a nearly-zero waste printing system, where we refill the ink system with 100ml ink bottles that we return to the supplier, who reuses them. To glue the labels, we use Coccoina, an Italian natural, plastic free and vegan glue, which is derived from almonds. Soon we will be switching to recycled cardboard boxes for the lotions too as especially in the warmer months the labels get stained and don't provide enough protection. They will still be made by Giulio's family and this will also help me reduce the time it takes me to package them!
Deodorant and Balms Labels - We buy these labels from Flexi Labels, a company based in Peterborough (again, quite close to us!). The labels are printed on unbleached paper, however, they are glued using synthetic glue as we still have not found a printing company that supplies labels with natural glues to small companies. The paper on which the labels come is non recyclable, but we reuse it as a mat to label soaps. Also, Flexi Labels has accepted to ship to us plastic-free and now they only use a box and 1-2 rubber bands instead of adding plastic sleeves and protective packaging!
Tins - Our tins come without a plastic lining (hence the weird shape). We went to great lengths to find tins without a plastic lining, and we are super proud of that! They are shipped plastic free from Tinware Direct, but they are a reseller, so they do not have any information about the working conditions of the factories that produce these tins in China. When we will be ‘big’ enough, we will order UK-made ones, as at the moment, the minimum order for these is way too large for us.
Shipping Packaging - We currently use simple cardboard boxes, but we will soon go back to our 75% Recycled cardboard boxes from Davpack, as our current supplier is not allowing us to receive the boxes plastic free. In addition, we use compostable and recyclable paper tape from Eco Craft and/or Davpack to seal the boxes, and all of our protecting packaging is reused. All of the notes that we send with your orders are from old ‘wrong’ labels, or simple paper scraps, and we write our messages by hand using a refillable fountain pen. Our shipping labels are printed on recycled white paper, and attached to the box with paper tape!
LABORATORY AND OFFICE FURNITURE
We looked for lots of second hand options for furniture, but in the end, we needed something that was durable, inexpensive, versatile and made of natural materials, so we resorted (mostly) to IKEA. Our tables in the laboratory are 100% FSC pine tables from IKEA, and the shelves are also 100% FSC pine from IKEA. In the Office, we have a second hand wooden table, a second hand filing cabinet, and IKEA shelves.