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Our Ethical Categories

When we founded Green Tulip in 2006 we spent a long time thinking about how to ‘label’ our products so that our customers would find it easy to make informed choices about what they were buying. We came up with six ethical categories that we felt summarised the main features of ethical products and we’re pleased to say that these categories are as relevant today as they were in 2006.

Each product on the site has icons indicating which of the ethical categories it falls into, and a section with information specific to that range called ‘Ethics’. We’ve also included general information about the brand behind each product in the ‘About the Brand’ section because there are some lovely stories to tell.

We’ve also included information on each of the ethical categories we use below, with information on the sort of things we look out for and what we avoid. There is a lot of information but it's a complex and interesting subject and we wanted to share some of the things we’ve learnt over the years. We hope you find it interesting too.

  NATURAL

NaturalThe word ‘natural’ is very overused in today’s marketplace and is often misleading, with many companies claiming to sell natural products when in fact they are packed with synthetic ingredients and contain maybe just a few token essential oils. At Green Tulip we make sure we find out exactly what is in a product before buying it so you can be assured that that everything we say is natural really is.

People are often very aware of what they eat but tend to worry less about what they are putting on their skin. However the skin is the largest organ in the body and what you put on it can be absorbed directly into the blood stream and travel round the body.

To make sure you know exactly what is in all of our toiletry products we list full ingredients for every product, and ensure that they contain no animal products and where possible no synthetic ingredients. None of our products contain the detergent Sodium Laurel Sulphate or Parabens - the chemicals used as preservatives.

With new natural ingredients being discovered all the time we keep an eye on new brands and new products to ensure we have the best natural products available. We also work hard to find you products that are good value for money, rather than accepting that just because a product is natural it is significantly more expensive.

  ORGANIC

OrganicRecent years have seen continued growth in the market for organic products - both for food and non-food. There are a lot of products marketed as organic but at Green Tulip we make sure everything marked as organic on our site is actually certified as organic by a respected certification body such as the Soil Association or the United States Department of Agriculture.

The Soil Association is Britain’s largest and most recognisable trademark for organic produce and it sets one of the highest and most comprehensive organic standards in the world. Their website www.soilassociation.org is a good source of information if you have any questions about organic produce.

The basic principle behind organic farming is that it relies solely on the natural ecosystem to ensure a crop grows successfully – avoiding the mass use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, and therefore encouraging a more natural environment for both people and animals.

People tend to eat organic food because they think it tastes better, but there are also real benefits to our health (from avoiding unnecessary pesticides and harmful food additives) and to the environment.

Organic farms use on average 50% less energy than their non-organic counterparts, they avoid the use of fertilisers which means no emissions are given off in their manufacture or use, and the higher percentage of carbon in the soil on organic farms also reduces carbon dioxide emissions.

Whereas organic food must meet legal standards to be called ‘organic’, the same does not apply to beauty products. The term organic can be used on products that contain only a tiny percentage of organic essential oil blended with synthetic ingredients. Only products that are certified by a respected certification body are marked as organic on the Green Tulip site and everything we stock is as natural as possible.

Organic cotton is now farmed in over 22 countries in the world, including many developing countries. Normal cotton farming uses one quarter of the world's pesticides and can have a serious effect on the health of cotton farmers. As more and more pesticides and chemical fertilisers are used, the soil fertility is damaged, forcing the farmers into buying more chemicals to encourage their cotton plants to grow and sinking them and their families into debt.

Organic cotton farmers can also grow food safely on their land, which they can then use to feed themselves and their families or sell to increase their income. By farming organically cotton farmers have reported that they do not have to get into debt and using viable alternatives to pesticides protects their health.

  BRITISH

BritishMuch publicity has been given to ‘food miles’ – the distance food travels from food to plate – mainly because these food miles add substantially to the carbon dioxide emissions that are contributing to climate change. The same issues are true for non-food products – with the miles travelled often even greater as a large percentage of products now come from the Far East and India.

By buying British you can ensure these product miles are minimised, and at the same time can support British Industry – with the employment and community benefits it brings. At Green Tulip we buy British whenever we can – and if there is a choice between two similar products - one British made and one made in Australia for example - we will always choose the British one.

As a small business ourselves we also try to support other small businesses – often specialist producers who have a real enthusiasm for their trade and a determination to supply like-minded retailers. This also means you will rarely find any of the products on our site being sold by the big retailers.

  FAIR TRADE

Fair TradeThe Fairtrade Foundation is the most high profile representation of fair trade products, and their Fairtrade mark can now be seen on over 4,500 products. The mark is an independent guarantee that disadvantaged producers in the developing world are getting a better deal, confirming that the growers or workers have been given fair pay and treatment for their contribution to the making of the product.

Certification is still limited to a small number of product categories, mainly food and drink, however cotton and some beauty products can also now be certified. The foundation aims to extend their certification to include other products such as gifts and clothing in the future, but significant work is required to research, and set, the standards products need to be reviewed against. More information can be found on the Fairtrade Foundation website www.fairtrade.org.uk.

As Green Tulip’s assortment focuses on gifts there are very few Fairtrade Foundation certified products available to us, but that does not stop us focusing on buying from suppliers who have a fair trade policy. In fact, the majority of the suppliers we deal with trading fairly as one of the guiding principles. In some cases these principles extend to profit sharing or producers working on a co-operative basis – both providing much higher job satisfaction.

And finally, this approach means that not only does the grower get a fair price, but the entire production chain – from processor, shipper, manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer - gets treated with equity and fairness too. This is something we think is really important.

  RECYCLED

RecycledWhen we launched Green Tulip in 2006 it was quite a challenge to find recycled products that we considered stylish enough for our assortment! However we’re pleased to say that as the awareness of the benefits of recycling has risen, so too has the availability of contemporary recycled products.

Glass is unique in the fact that it can be infinitely recycled without compromising its quality, and if recycled glass is used to make new bottles or glasses the energy needed in its manufacture is greatly reduced. In fact 315kg of CO2 is saved per tonne of glass melted (after transport and processing) or, more simply, recycling two bottles saves enough energy to boil water for five cups of tea!

When you take account of the fact that recycling also reduces the demand for raw materials (which have to be quarried from our landscape) and reduces the amount of waste glass which needs to be landfilled there really are many convincing reasons why buying recycled glass is an environmentally friendly choice.

In contrast to glass paper cannot be recycled indefinitely - it can only be recycled 4-6 times as the fibres get shorter and weaker each time, and some virgin pulp must be introduced into the process to maintain the strength and quality of the fibre. But the recycling of paper is still vitally important – it reduces the need for virgin pulp and therefore timber; it reduces the need for the disposal of waste paper; less energy and less water is used in producing recycled paper (compared to virgin paper); and as recycled paper is not usually re-bleached (which is why it can have a greyish tinge) it produces fewer polluting emissions into the air.

The other big change we have seen over the last few years is in the growth of upcycling where ‘waste’ products are converted into something new and useful. We lovely upcycling at Green Tulip! As well as giving something a second life it is less energy intensive than recycling, and because each product is made from a different discarded item upcycling can also produce products that are ‘one offs’.

We now stock a few upcycled ranges - including products made from old jumpers, and old truck tarpaulin. We also highlight where an upcycled product is a ‘one of a kind’ – your chance to get yourself your own original piece of art!

And finally it is worth mentioning that as we all recycle more of our household waste, the market for recycled products also becomes more important. We want to close the recycling loop (the three arrows that commonly represent recycling) and all three steps – collection, manufacturing and purchasing – are important to make this happen.

  SUSTAINABLE

SustainableProducts fall into the sustainable category because they are made from sustainable materials or because they encourage sustainable behaviour.

Sustainable materials are those that are manufactured from crops that have a minimal long-term effect on the environment, and in some cases even have a positive effect. Bamboo is a great example of this.


Known as the miracle plant, bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world, and is an endlessly renewable resource - growing new shoots from its root system after being harvested. It thrives naturally without using any pesticides or fertilizers, takes in greenhouse gasses and produces 35% more oxygen than the equivalent stand of trees.

For other plants such as trees and palms, sustainability is all about halting the destruction of forests and plantations around the world, and the resulting damage to the eco-system. Any wooden products we sell at Green Tulip are from managed forests, as is the palm oil in our candles. In addition our wooden toys are made from rubberwood, which is a by- product of the rubber plantations and which is only harvested once the tree has stopped producing rubber.

Certification in this field comes in the form of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – an international non-profit organisation dedicated to the promotion of responsible forest management, and all the social and environmental good that brings.

Encouraging sustainable behaviour is another important goal of Green Tulip. To us sustainable behaviour means acting in a way that considers the future as well as the present, and is importantly about the use and post-use of a product, not just the purchase.

We sell a wide range of products designed to inspire and enable consumers to adopt more sustainable habits, particularly those aimed at reducing waste. Our reusable bottles, wraps and containers encourage consumers to take products from home instead of buying expensive, overpackaged food and drinks when out. As well as reducing waste this also saves money – a double benefit!

AND FINALLY...

...We wanted to cover some points on the wider issue of sustainable development, and highlight how many of the products sold by Green Tulip can help us work towards those goals. These days we regularly hear that the current model of consumption in the western world is unsustainable, and that action must be taken. But what does this mean?

The most popular definition of sustainable development is ‘development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'. (Brundtland report of 1987). Listed below are the four main issues that have been highlighted as priority areas, and how our products can help:

Building sustainable communities where people want to live and work, now and in the future (helped by supporting both small British businesses and fair trade communities). 

  • Change the way we generate and use energy, in particular minimising greenhouse gas emissions (organic farming, growth of sustainable crops and recycling all help towards this). 
  • Change the way we design, produce, use and dispose of products and services so that we can achieve more with less and live within our resources (helped by buying products that encourage reuse and also using recycled products). 
  • Protect and enhance our natural resources and our environment (helped by using sustainable crops, and using natural and organic, rather than synthetic, ingredients.

Any questions about any of the above? Just drop us an email or find us on Facebook and Twitter...