Behind the scenes at our new hive

Bee’s Wrap, the product, began with a question: Could we find a better way to store food, without the waste and without the plastic? Bee’s Wrap, the company, poses another: Can we find a better way to build a business?

Today, we’re hard at work on answers for both of those questions. The last few years have brought significant growth for Bee’s Wrap — an exciting prospect as we work hard to put our reusable food storage wraps in the hands of more people. With growth come challenges, and up until a few months ago, Bee’s Wrap was bursting at the seams. We’d outgrown our workshop in Bristol, Vermont, and needed to find a new home — one with more space for production, more room for warehousing, more desks for our growing hive.

Which is why we’re so delighted to have landed in our new home, just down the road in Middlebury, VT. Today our team of more than 30 people is all under one roof in a sunny, spacious, light-filled building, powered by approximately 75% renewable energy.

It’s a big change from the early days of Bee’s Wrap, when a small band of us — neighbors and farmers, mothers and friends — painted wax by hand onto fabric wraps in the basement of Sarah’s home. We’ve since developed custom machinery that allows us to wax whole rolls of fabric at a time.

As we settle into our new digs, we’re taking the chance to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. We come to work every day on a mission to help more people ditch disposable, single-use plastic in favor of a natural and sustainable alternative. We’re also passionate about the company we’re building — the close knit team that tackles challenges with creativity and goodwill.

Every Wednesday, we gather for a zero-waste lunch, and once a month we sit down to a community meal to celebrate milestones like birthdays and team successes. (And all of our food scraps go to a few coworkers’ chickens!) Our new space has a yoga room where employees can take a break to stretch and refresh, and a break room we stock with bulk snacks from our local food co-op. We’ve added lots of beautiful, air-purifying plants, and we’re not far from the great outdoors; we’re lucky to be in close proximity to a walking trail that winds along the Otter Creek.

We also look beyond the walls of this hive, thinking about the lives our employees lead in our community and the health of the place we call home. We value a flexible, family-friendly work environment, one that allows employees to fulfill familial obligations to a child or aging parent, and balance the demands of work and life. We’re proud to offer paid volunteer time and paid voting time to all Bee’s Wrap employees.

And at work, we value collaboration and creativity. We’ve started forming committees that pull employees outside of their day-to-day roles to work on bigger picture projects. We bring this approach to product development, as we think about new products and initiatives, and to problems that stretch beyond Bee's Wrap — like advocating for a plastic bag ban in our town and participating in statewide advocacy against single-use plastics.

This is not a time without challenges. At Bee’s Wrap, we do everything ourselves — from sourcing and warehousing ingredients to manufacturing to shipping to marketing and sales. We’re growing quickly. We’re balancing our sometimes utopian vision of what a company can and should be with the very real day-to-day challenges of our to-do lists.

We couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve built so far. And we couldn’t be more excited about what’s yet to come.

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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.