Meeting 5 of Suffolk's best eco-minded businesses
PUBLISHED: 12:38 08 May 2019 | UPDATED: 12:38 08 May 2019
Suffolk has its fair share of businesses at the cutting edge of green practices.Ross Bentley profiles some of the leaders in their field
Staying green to the end
People are becoming more environmentally aware. Most recycle, many make buying decisions based on what products they feel are sustainable and an increasing number are trying to cut single-use plastics from their daily lives.
But when it comes to the end of their life - the funeral - very few make plans to keep their carbon footprint as low as possible. One company trying to change this is Rosedale Funeral Home - a successful funeral director business with six offices in locations including Beccles, Diss, Halesworth and Wymondham.
A founder member of the Association of Green Funeral Directors, Rosedale has led the way in what is a traditional industry and became the first funeral business to offer a carbon neutral funeral where clients could offset their carbon footprint.
Owners Simon and Anne Beckett-Allen are constantly looking to make changes that are friendly to the environment, including sourcing coffins made from biodegradable materials, using new technologies to cool bodies and working with florists who eschew plastic packaging. The business champions woodland burials and even owns a man-powered hearse.
"There are more and more people who care about the environment and through their life try and make the right consumer choices," says Anne. "It's a real shame if people who have composted their tea bags all their life do not to have the option of an environmentally friendly funeral. In a way, it's an insult to their values."
Fighting fast fashion
Where Does It Come From? creates its own range of ethical and eco-friendly clothing, both for direct retail and for businesses. From tunics and shirts, to scarves and children's jeans, each item comes with a code on the label that enables buyers to trace the whole supply chain, right back to the cotton farm.
By partnering with fair trade social enterprises in India and Africa, the Ipswich business is providing work for communities in developing countries and promoting sustainable processes such as traditional hand weaving and block printing as well as the use of natural, plastic-free fabrics.
Founder Jo Salter hopes this approach will raise awareness about the problem of fast fashion and over consumption, and inspire consumers to shop with conscious thought for workers and the environment. She is often heard speaking and writing articles to promote this vision.
"I want to encourage customers to ask questions about the impacts on people and planet of their shopping choices," she says
Where Does It Come From? also helps spread the ethical and eco message more widely, organising events such as Ethical Brands for Fashion Revolution which is taking place in London's Museum of Brands in April.
It is also a co-organiser, with Ethicalhour, of the Be The Change Awards, which celebrate the increasing number of brands focused on making positive change to communities and the environment, and has the support of another Suffolk business, Adnams, as a sponsor for the Food and Drink category.
Suffolk malt producer Muntons has established itself as a leader in sustainable business practices, by working with its supply chain to produce 100 per cent sustainable malt.
Muntons passes on waste products which are used as fertilisers, to help nurture crops that are in turn used to produce more malt.
The company won the won the Environment and Sustainability category at the Suffolk Business Awards in 2018, but has not rested on its laurels and has continued to look for fresh gains.
In the past 12 months, it has installed a state-of-the-art colour sorter designed to remove contaminants more efficiently and reduce wasted lorry journeys through rejections.
The firm has also set itself a target of reducing emissions by 45 per cent by 2025, based on 2010 levels. It already generates 14 per cent of the electricity required to run its business from renewable energy sources and operates an anaerobic digestor at its site in Stowmarket.
Muntons has chosen to associate itself with several UN sustainable development goals, including affordable and clean energy, sustainable cities and communities, and climate action.
"We looked at areas where we were already doing good work and where we could get some quick wins," said sustainability and CSR manager Melissa Abbott. "But that's not to say we leave it at that - there is always room for improvement.
"It's about identifying an opportunity to see how we can do things better."
Growing up in the world
Aponic has come up with a devilishly simple product that could play a part in solving some of the biggest environmental challenges facing mankind.
Using low-cost plastic tubing, it has developed and manufactures a vertical, soil-less farming system that uses 90 per cent less water than traditional agriculture, runs on rain water and solar power, does not emit harmful run-off into the environment and massively reduces the need for fossil fuels in food production.
It can grow herbs such as basil, mint, thyme and oregano, as well as vegetables and fruit such as spinach, tomatoes, kale, strawberries, cucumbers, melons, lettuces and peppers.
Its domestic model easily mounts on a sunny outside wall or in a conservatory and requires no digging, weeding or watering, just planting and harvesting.
In commercial use, the water savings and reduced labour costs means Aponic's kit can help turn unproductive land into low carbon growing areas with low input and high value output. Contaminated and otherwise unusable land in towns could be used to grow food from all over the world with zero food miles.
Founder Jason Hawkins-Row says: "Recent projects include working with a Canadian organisation we met on a trade mission, as well as a charity in South Africa.
"We are looking at using the system to grow food on cruise ships and to produce food for airlines that would otherwise be flown in from the other side of the world."
Reducing waste one sip at a time
As many as 2.5 billion paper coffee cups are thrown away in the UK each year, while just one in 400 cups is recycled because it is difficult to removed their plastic coating to recycle the card. But Ipswich company Frugalpac is on a mission to change that with its product Frugal Cup.
A traditional coffee cup is made using paper from virgin trees. It is cemented with a plastic film, which bonds tightly to the paper, and is then finished with a chemical treatment. The Frugal Cup uses recycled paper with a food grade liner to ensure the paper does not come into contact with the liquid.
"The cup breaks down and turns into pulp in just eight minutes in the recycling process," says chief executive, Malcolm Waugh.
With calls for brands and retailers to do more to support an environmentally sustainable economy, the company's aim is to be the number one replacement for all coffee cups in the market which are difficult to recycle and is talking to the high street cafe chains.
"Our focal point at the moment is independent cafes which tend to be more progressive in terms of their environmental position," says Malcolm Waugh.