When we founded Green Tulip in 2007 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.
Our Ethical Categories are listed below. Each product on the site has icons indicating which of the ethical categories it falls into, and an information section called ‘Ethics’ giving the ethical information specific to that product. We’ve also included general information about the brand behind each product in an ‘About the Brand’ section because there are so many lovely stories to tell.
Please read on for information on each of the ethical categories we use below, with information on the sort of things we look out for and what we try to 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.
Products 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 fertilisers, takes in greenhouse gasses and produces 35% more oxygen than the equivalent stand of trees.
Another well known sustainable plant is jute. Jute plants are easy to grow, have a high yield per acre and, unlike cotton, have little need for pesticides and fertilisers. During growth they take in three times more CO2 than the average tree, converting this CO2 into oxygen, and also enrich the soil.
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, and the few products that we sell that contain palm oil only include palm oil that is RPSO certified. In addition some of 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.
Encouraging sustainable behaviour is another important goal of Green Tulip - something we started talking about back in 2006. It has been amazing seeing the acceleration in awareness in living more sustainably, especially since Blue Planet II highlighted the harm we are doing to our planet.
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. It is also about consuming in a more measured way and only buying what we need.
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!
We’ll continue to make sure we have the best products for reducing waste in our assortment - and a few years ago even launched a sister site - www.everdaygreen.co.uk - which sells a more focused range of eco living products. Do head over and have a look if this is your particular area of interest.
The 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 everything we say is natural really is natural and is good for you too.
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.
The other products you will find in our Natural section are products made from untreated natural materials such as Jute, Seagrass and Bamboo. If products are Natural /and/ Organic they will just appear in the Organic category.
Recent 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, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) or the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
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.
Organic cotton is a good example of the benefits of organic farming. It 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.
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 where products contain organic ingredients but are not certified organic we will include them in our Natural section.
When 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.
It’s useful to consider a few different materials when talking about recycling. 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. 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.
A newer material onto the recycled market is recycled plastic bottles - rPET - which has a wide range of uses. After recycling, the bottles have their labels removed, are sterilised, sorted into colour, crushed into tiny pieces, melted, extruded into fibres, spun into yarn then woven into a fabric. A great use of the millions of bottles used every day and a material we are sure will become higher profile over the new few years.
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. All three steps – collection, manufacturing and purchasing – are important to make this happen for us all to try and close the recycling loop and move towards a circular economy.
We love 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’. After all what could be better than turning a ‘waste’ product into something new, useful and unique?
We now stock a few upcycled ranges - including stylish gifts made from used beer and wine bottles, truck tarpaulin, bicycle tyres and saris. We also highlight where an upcycled product is a ‘one of a kind’ – your chance to get yourself your own original piece of art!
In order to help people live as plastic free a lifestyle as possible, our Plastic Free category includes not only products that do not have any plastic in them, but also products that do not have any plastic packaging at all - even a tiny bit of plastic attaching a swing tag for example.
As an experienced retailer we also believe it is important to feedback to our suppliers where we they could improve their packaging - both the packaging around their product and the way they pack their goods to send them to us. We’ve even been known to post back anything we can’t reuse so at least /they/ can use it again ;)
PS it goes without saying we do not use any plastic packaging in your orders - just cardboard, paper and our lovely printed paper tape!
We’ll use this category to highlight alternatives to items that traditionally might contain animal products. Examples of this include handbags made from a faux leather and lip balms that use calendula wax as their base.
Of course we would never sell anything that is tested on animals either - but we think you probably already know that about us!
The 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 trading policy. In fact, the majority of the suppliers we deal with have trading fairly as one of their 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. We’ll share information about each brand’s practices on the individual product pages, and you can also read a bit more about their personal stories on the ‘About The Brand’ section too.
Some of our suppliers are members of BAFTS - a network of independent suppliers in the UK dedicated to promoting Fair Trade products (and retailers). We also sell products that are made by members of the World Fair Trade Organization - WFTO - a global community of social enterprises that practice Fair Trade.
One of the things we like best about trading under fair trade principles is that the wider ‘fair trade’ approach means that not only does a 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.
Green Tulip have always prided ourselves on ensuring that we buy only from responsible suppliers. This doesn’t mean all our products are ‘fair trade’, but it does mean that the manufacturer cares about the way their products are made.
Stainless steel water bottles are a good example. We are often asked if products such as stainless steel water bottles or containers can be considered ‘Fair Trade’. In our view, however good the manufacturer is, the way the products are made are not conducive to a fair trade certification. The reality is the only way you can make a stainless steel water bottle is in a factory, so our priority is making sure that the factories that make this sort of item are responsible in a wide range of ways including the way they treat their workers, the way they source their raw materials and the way they dispose of any waste.
Many of our bigger suppliers do have an Ethical Trade Audit on their factory, but that isn’t always something that can be done by the smaller manufacturers and companies that we also want to support.
It is often difficult to quantity how to make this judgement. For us it is usually about asking A LOT of questions - making sure the answers add up and we feel the supplier is being transparent.
We love to highlight hand made products. Not only are these often low impact, low energy products, they are also products that use traditional skills that it is important to support and ensure we do not lose.
We sell a wide range of hand made products across many different categories - from handbags that are hand woven, printed and sewn in India, to soaps that are hand mixed and cut in small workshops just down the road from us. It will continue to be a category we support and we love the fact that we can help small producers, making their own products, get their businesses off the ground.
Much 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 try to 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.
Just a word about us at Green Tulip. We’re based on a lovely farm in the middle of the Wiltshire countryside, employing local people who believe in what we do. What started as a ‘kitchen table’ business is now a team of nine people (and a Portuguese Pointer!). I guess you could say we are a million miles away from some of the big businesses dominating online retail these days. Do follow us on social media to find out more about the team and what we get up to!