Tips from the hive for a plastic-free holiday

The holidays can be magical. But if you’re concerned about the amount of waste you generate in your day-to-day life, this time of year can also be overwhelming. Start looking, and plastic shows up in almost every modern holiday convention. It’s there in shopping bags you tote away from major retailers during a holiday sale. It’s in many of the toys we give our children and the gadgets we give loved ones. It covers the ready-made treats we can buy for holiday parties.

Setting aside plastic, there’s other waste to consider — the wrapping paper we tear open and toss, the gifts that collect dust in closets, the easy pull of giving more stuff when we simply don’t need more.

Looking to cut back on waste this holiday season? We turned to some of the Bee’s Wrap team — now nearly 40 people strong! — to ask for their tips and tricks. We’re sharing most of these anonymously, so as not to spoil the surprise for any intended gift recipients who might be snooping for clues.

Going Homemade

“I’m making an effort to make thoughtful, handmade gifts instead of buying new gadgets, toys, or things that will be forgotten in a month,” said one of our hive. She’ll be making handmade Christmas ornaments from wine corks, twigs, and scraps of ribbon, and crocheting a blanket for her nephew.

We are changing it up this season by giving our honey as gifts in reusable glass jars, instead of buying random gifts and gizmos,” said another. “Did I mention cookies? I make them every year — it’s a long standing tradition — and always deliver in a tin. With my cookies there is only one caveat: if you give back the tin, I will refill it for you next year.”

Cookies are popular on staff! “We (by ‘we’ I really mean my wife) actually make a lot of homemade treats — cookies, breads, candy, pies, and so on —  to share with neighbors, friends and family instead of buying pre-packaged,” another colleague shared. Best of all? Those treats all head off to their new homes covered with Bee’s Wrap.

Getting Creative with the Trimmings

“We wrap our presents in fabric every year,” said Sarah, the Bee’s Wrap founder. “I have been thinking about using fabric that can be reused as a satchel for veggies or small items when out shopping or regifted, and including instructions.”

“I’m reusing wrapping paper, bows, and ribbons for last year and the years before,” another staff member shared. If you haven’t already started reusing wrapping supplies, make this the year to start, and choose a shoebox or cubby for stowing away supplies until next year. Another member of our team is planning to make her own wrapping paper, reusing brown paper bags.

Another idea? Use Bee's Wrap! Include a note explaining what Bee's Wrap is and how your gift recipient should use and care for it, and let the wrapping paper become part of the present.

Giving Less

“Mostly, I’m just giving less of everything. And because we’re buying fewer items, I’m trying to spend our gift budget with local or ethical companies using natural materials and fibers, even if those things might cost a little bit more,” suggested one member of our team.  

Similarly, a few folks said they’re making more donations in honor of loved ones instead of giving physical gifts. Last year, one colleague gave her adult family members Kiva loan gift cards, giving each the chance to find projects to support with their individual donations.

Consider the Packaging

“Look for products in glass containers instead of plastic,” said one team member, “or better yet, buy beauty items in bulk or hand-make them.” Packaging is one of the worst offenders of single-use plastic and waste. (We’re proud that our packaging is 100% recycled paper and plastic-free!).

Shopping Secondhand

One of the best ways to curb waste is to opt for something gently used over buying new. “I’m shopping the thrift store. My toddler is obsessed with bags, purses, and dress up clothes, and what better place to find treasures?”

How will you cut down on waste this season?

If you’re still on the hunt for gift ideas, we’ll admit that we think Bee’s Wrap makes an excellent gift this holiday season. As versatile as it is beautiful, Bee’s Wrap is meant to be used and re-used. It’s a gift your friends and family will reach for long after the holidays end. And at the end of the wrap’s useful life in their kitchen, Bee’s Wrap is fully biodegradable — meaning this is a gift that won’t end up in a landfill or collecting dust in a cabinet. If Bee’s Wrap is right for someone on your list this season, shop online or find a stockist near you.

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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.