Last year when the plastic straw issue came into the public, I thought to myself “well why don't they just use bio-plastic straws (straws made of biodegradable plastics sourced through corn), then everyone can be happy?” Never content to let sleeping dogs lie I started doing some research and found the solution to the plastic problem just isn't that simple.
You see, for almost eight years Dreaming Tree has been shrink wrapping all of my products with a bioplastic called Biolefin, it's made from corn and does indeed biodegrade when disposed of properly albeit slowly about two to four plus years from start to finish. Its food grade, acid free and looks good with my recycled content printed labels, also kept the product safe and fresh in many different types of retail environments. I made the best choice, I was awesome, I was doing the right thing...........
And now times have changed, we know a lot more about sustainability issues than we did then, know more about bioplastic, and to some extent manufacturers are being more transparent with their processes involved . What I found was while bioplastic looks good on paper so to speak on the deep dive it's not always the best solution. Corn for bioplastics is grown on land that could be used to grow food. In fact, in 2014, almost a quarter of US grain production was for biofuels and bioplastics production. Taking agricultural land out of production could cause a significant rise in food prices that would hit poorest people hardest worldwide (it has). Additionally, growing crops to make bioplastics comes with the usual environmental impacts of intensive agriculture, including greenhouse emissions from the petroleum needed to fuel farm machinery, and water pollution caused by runoff from land where fertilizers are used in industrial quantities not to mention the enormous amount of resources it then takes to manufacture. In some cases, these indirect impacts from "growing" bioplastics are greater than if we simply made plastics from petroleum in the first place. Further, some bioplastics are typically made from genetically modified corn. Genetically modified corn has been specifically designed to be able to endure an onslaught of chemical pesticides without the crop being destroyed. This means that genetically modified corn production fields are often generating more chemical runoff and health hazards for workers and their communities than non-GMO corn is creating. To make matters worse to date, the world of bio-plastics is almost entirely driven by virgin materials. A very small set of bio-plastics can be put back into the recycling stream, but when they do, they are treated as “traditional” plastic. And that is really just not something Dreaming Tree stands behind.
I've taken great pains to be a conscientious manufacturer, choosing recycled content labels and packaging, cradle to cradle certified shipping envelopes/boxes, duel certified sustainable organic palm oil, organic fair trade oils and butters where there is market stability in the price, working with other small, local, woman owned businesses, verifying and re-verifying each order that ingredients are not tested on animals, choosing food grade and gmo free ingredients and the best thing left I can do is reduce Dreaming Tree's use of plastics; all of them, while keeping products safe and shippable.
It wasn't an easy feat but after months of research I learned there's no perfect solution (naked is just not an option for many products and many markets) but I decided on switching the soap packing to fsc certified natural wax coated bags with recycled content recyclable labels, these keep the soap safe and can go right into the compost pile or recycling and completely biodegrade in weeks-- not months or years, with a lower resource footprint to create in the first place.
I'm pretty old school --so waste not want not. If you've ordered recently your order will contain a mix of both the new packaging and old.
Another immediate change I can easily make is that True Love's Kiss Lip Balms that are directly shipped from me on the website and not one of our instore/event retail partners, will no longer be shrink wrapped. The recycled content/ recyclable labels have always had a tamper tab and since no customers are allowed in the workshop and the only employee is me who makes them, then shipped direct to you the tab is more than sufficient for safety. I think you'll find this is the right choice! Again if you've ordered lip balms recently you may receive some still shrink wrapped with Biolefin.
It goes to show it's important to re-evaluate the impact of our choices from time to time, and make changes as new information becomes available to us. Changes won't end here, but some products pose challenges to keep packaged safely,economically,and leak proof. I'm working on it :)