Lessons from plastic free july


We've long been fans of Plastic Free July at Bee's Wrap, and this year our team decided to embrace the challenge. For the last week of the month, we encouraged our team members to pledge to reduce single-use plastics. In total, thirteen Bee's Wrap employees jumped in. Our goals ranged in ambition and scope, from refusing plastic straws to buying more bulk groceries to carrying reusable water bottles, and more. What we shared was a common desire to pay more attention to the plastic in our daily lives, and look for places where we could improve.


What did we learn along the way? A lot. 


Sometimes there's a cost to refusing plastic. But maybe it comes out in the wash?


At our local food co-op, Katie (press and communications) opted for a half-gallon of organic milk in a reusable glass container; this container can be redeemed for a deposit at the store, sent back to the creamery, and reused. But that half-gallon of milk is more expensive than the organic alternative in a plastic jug. Jess (marketing associate) ran into the same quandary when, craving a cool beverage, she chose kombucha in a glass jar over a flavored seltzer in plastic. Sometimes going plastic free simply costs more.


But we also realized that choosing to refuse single-use items made us more thoughtful about our consumption overall. It was easier to resist an impulse purchase at a gas station. Many of us packed our lunches more regularly, saving money (and waste) from take-out options. While we didn't do a rigorous accounting of the costs and savings associated with refusing single-use plastics, we had a hunch that it all balanced out in the end.

A little bit of preparation goes a long way.


Refusing single-use plastics does require some forethought, and keeping the right tools handy goes a long way toward making habit shifts. Katie was traveling last week; with an early morning flight ahead of her, she packed breakfast in a sandwich wrap and carried an empty reusable coffee cup through security. Jess carried bamboo utensils on an outing to the farmers' market, and was able to refuse the plastic fork offered for her lunch on the go. Abbey (office admin) is now on the hunt for the perfect stainless steel box so she can ask for leftovers at restaurants to be packed up in a reusable container. 

Plastic really is everywhere.


Grocery shopping was perhaps the biggest challenge. We packed our reusable shopping bags. Jess shopped the bulk section, using glass jars to store her pantry staples. Even so, plastic was hard to avoid entirely. It was surrounding each block of cheese in the dairy section, each bundle of fresh herbs in the produce section, and hidden inside cereal boxes. John (sales and marketing) noted that plastic often cropped up in unexpected places — like the farmers' market, where he was surprised to realize how ubiquitous plastic bags could be. 


Other businesses are making thoughtful choices about plastic.


Just as Plastic Free July made us notice how much plastic is out there to avoid, it also made us appreciate the businesses around us that are trying to curb our culture's plastic addiction. A local ice cream stand uses compostable dishes, cups, spoons, and napkins. A coffee shop incentivizes customers to bring their own mugs by discounting a cup of coffee. At one local grocery store, there's no need to choose "paper or plastic?" if you forget your reusable bags — they only stock paper, and keep cast off cardboard boxes on hand for grocery toting. 

We have to speak up. 


It can be hard to go against the grain and ask for special treatment. Sometimes it means chasing down a barista who reaches for a disposable cup before you offer up your reusable one, or asking the person behind the deli counter to wrap a sandwich in Bee's Wrap (as Sarah, our founder, did last week). We had conversations with our servers, the employees in our local grocery stores, and our friends and families. In the end, these were all conversations worth having. 


We're not perfect. But we are trying to do better.


In taking note of the plastics in our daily lives, we also started noticing them in the world around us. Kat, one of our sales representatives, spent part of July on vacation at the beach — where she found balloons and straws and even a basketball washed up on shore during walks.  


"I went down to the river last weekend and was so bummed to see so much trash: an empty chip bag, cigarette butts, soda caps, a dirty sandwich baggie, a lone plastic floatie," said Jess. "It's surprising to me that people can be so careless with such a beautiful place." 


This is the kind of revelation that drives us. So, too, does the camaraderie of tackling this challenge together. Plastic Free July might be over, but we'll be choosing to reuse as much as we can — saying no to the plastic straw, carrying our reusable totes, and packing a sandwich in Bee's Wrap. We hope you'll join us. 

Related Articles
Letter from sarah: business can’t afford to be silent on climate change

For a long time, conventional wisdom had it that companies shouldn’t tackle hot-button political issues. That’s advice borne out of fear: the fear that, in exchange for voicing our opinions, we risk angering customers or losing sales. 

As the founder and CEO of Bee’s Wrap, I’m motivated these days by a greater fear: that, should our elected officials fail to act on the crisis of climate change, the damage we cause to our planet will be irreversible, negatively impacting our families, our communities, and our ecosystems forever.

As a Certified B Corp, Bee’s Wrap is committed to using business as a force for good. We make sustainable products that reduce single-use plastics, use environmentally friendly and safe ingredients, and are constantly looking for additional ways to reduce our carbon footprint. I am proud to run my company in a state that values these things too, but I know that together, we can do more. This year, Bee’s Wrap added its voice to the collective commitment of the Vermont business community to do better for our environment.

On Thursday, Jan. 23, Bee’s Wrap joined dozens of other Vermont businesses to advocate at the Statehouse for climate action policies in 2020. We participated in training, lobbying, and a press conference, as well as individual and group meetings with corresponding representatives.

While the Green Mountain State has a history of innovative environmental policies, the current climate challenges require audacious solutions. This legislative term, our lawmakers have the opportunity to pass more ambitious and much-needed policy. 

I feel it is important that our elected officials hear from the Vermont business community, as we are important stakeholders in Vermont’s economy and have an impact on the environment we all share. Our team joined others from companies like Seventh Generation, Ben & Jerry’s, Danforth Pewter, and Brattleboro Savings and Loan, along with environmental nonprofits VPIRG and 350VT, to speak directly to our elected officials and we urged them to take immediate action. Bee’s Wrap’s focus is on reducing the usage and availability of single-use plastics, increasing the accessibility of renewable energy, and prioritizing the reduction of climate pollution, and we support the comprehensive 2020 climate policy agenda outlined by VPIRG. 

Vermont’s small size and long history of participatory democracy provides an opportunity for Vermont business (and individual Vermonters) to have direct, substantial, face-to-face conversations with their own state representatives and legislative leaders. Bee’s Wrap participated in this event to advocate for our business values and shared priorities for bold climate action. We did this alongside our corporate peers, demonstrating together that the need for action is vital and urgent. I am proud to have led Bee’s Wrap in the participation of this direct demonstration of our core values and am excited to continue advocating for the necessary change that our state and world need.

Why biodegradability matters

Plastic is forever. Bee’s Wrap isn’t. And that’s by design.

Bee’s Wrap is naturally biodegradable and compostable. We started making Bee’s Wrap after growing deeply concerned about the persistent effect of plastics on our planet. Plastic never leaves us. It lingers in landfills for centuries. It enters our soil, our waterways, and our oceans, breaking down into tiny but ever-present pieces.

We set out to make an alternative, and we knew from the beginning that whatever we made needed to be biodegradable. That’s because we believe in considering the entire life of the products we make and consume, from their creation and manufacturing to their eventual end. Where does a product come from? How is it made? And crucially, what happens when we no longer need or use this item?

This is where biodegradability comes in: A product that is biodegradable can be easily returned to the earth. It’s a technology as old as time, and everything made in nature returns to nature with time. There’s no complicated recycling process, and no need to send your Bee’s Wrap off to a special facility. Made from four simple ingredients, Bee’s Wrap comes from the earth, and is designed to return to the earth. 

Importantly, what you do with naturally biodegradable materials matters. Modern landfills are lined and packed tightly, creating an oxygen-poor environment where even food can take decades to decompose. One study conducted by the University of Arizona uncovered 25-year-old hotdogs, corncobs, and grapes, as well as 50-year-old newspapers that were still readable. Food waste that decomposes in landfills also generates methane gas, which has 34 times the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide, according to Project Drawdown, a coalition of researchers working on climate change solutions. 

This is why composting is so important; food waste, yard waste, and other organic material holds valuable nutrients that can be returned to the soil after decomposition. The same is true for Bee’s Wrap. When your wrap has reached the end of its useful life — typically after about a year of regular use and proper care in your kitchen — you can use your wraps as a natural fire starter, or you can add them directly to your backyard compost pile. With a little time and the right environmental conditions, your Bee’s Wrap will break down into nutritious compost that you can use in your backyard garden. 

We’ve designed Bee’s Wrap to be hardworking, a trusty companion in your kitchen and on the go as you seek out plastic-free alternatives that are good for you and the planet. As your Bee’s Wrap begins to wear out, we hope you’ll look on those signs of wear and use as a welcome reminder of the natural cycles that surround us.

The joy of inconvenience

Choosing inconvenience can be an act of quiet revolution. 

For too long, we’ve been told that convenience will cure what ails us. How convenient, to find our meals prepackaged in the freezer section of our grocery store, our bread baked and sliced and stowed in plastic bags. It’s convenient to pop a load of laundry in the dryer and to have our work at our fingertips, forever accessible on the devices we carry in our pockets. We click a button and, conveniently, that which we need — or think we need — arrives on our doorstep: underwear, paper towels, a birthday gift, a box of cereal.

We don’t talk often enough about how convenience can harm us. For the convenience of a smartphone, we trade the quiet of disconnecting. For the convenience of fast and pre-packaged food, we swallow a meal that may leave us sluggish or unsatisfied. Pre-packaged meals and one-click shopping leave us with a mountain of waste bound for the recycling can or the landfill. We’ve been promised efficiency and speed, and the freedom of time. Sometimes we receive that. Sometimes we don’t. 

The truth is, there’s joy in inconvenience. In the smell of bread baked at home, the magic of a few ingredients kneaded together and turned into sustenance. There’s joy in taking laundry out to the line, in standing in the sunlight and hanging clothes to dry. There’s joy and pride in knitting a sweater, or mending a pair of jeans. 

woman wrapping homemade bread in bee's wrap sustainable food storage

We’re not arguing for a return to the past, or for a rose-colored view of the very real work that it takes to clothe and feed and nourish ourselves in a way that’s kind to our bodies and our planet. There’s a time and a place for convenience, and there’s also luxury, and privilege, in the ability to savor inconvenience. 

Is it, occasionally, inconvenient to make a meal from scratch? To bundle a sandwich in Bee’s Wrap, or to spend a few minutes at the sink, washing dishes and reusable containers and Bee’s Wrap by hand? Yes.

Sometimes, we choose the joy of inconvenience, the quiet resistance of finding a different way of moving in the world — a path that’s lighter for the planet and more fulfilling for the individual. We choose to slow down. We choose thoughtfulness. We choose reuse. And we find, in those habits, new satisfaction.