Sustainability Talk

Sustainability Talk

A candid conversation between a retailer and a manufacturer of children's goods.

On April 15th, Bowfish Kids owner Caitlin Quirk had a conversation with Love Bubby owner Jaime Windau regarding sustainable supply chains. 

Q& A:
To Love Bubby from Bowfish Kids

1) As we work towards becoming a 100% sustainable business, we've found that it is easier to find products that are sustainably made than it is to find products that are sustainably shipped. What are some things that Love Bubby is already doing or is committed to changing in order to practice more sustainable packaging and shipping methods?
At Love Bubby our products are designed and printed in the USA so are shipped direct to us and are not subjected to packaging coming from overseas which means we receive our goods with zero plastic packaging. Based on our partnership with Bowfish we have started to explore the idea of shipping to all of our retail stores with zero plastic packaging. We are working on a plan by the end of 2021 to ship to our direct consumers and retail stores with 100% recycled packaging and cannot wait to roll this out. 
2) At Bowfish, we practice being sustainable in our everyday lives. It has become a lifestyle more than just a business initiative. What do you do at Love Bubby to educate your staff and create a culture of sustainability?
It is absolutely something that has to bleed through into your lifestyle. For us, as we have embarked on trying to do better in the world of sustainability it has opened us up to ask more questions, do more research and put together a plan. The word “sustainability” has also become a catch phrase for so many things. Therefore we are trying to take a focused approach to where we can make a difference. This year the focus is around packaging. We are currently in the explore phase of all the components that make up our branded packaging. It’s not just a matter of saying we will stop using plastic poly mailers - there are so many items that you need to consider. We also want a branded experience for our consumer end to end so are working on the balance of how to be sustainable and also have a great unboxing experience. I have full confidence that these two things can happen. 
3) We are committed to being fully transparent and honest with our customers when it comes to making sustainability claims. There are a ton of companies out there that are deceiving customers with green washing and there isn't anyone holding those companies accountable. What is Love Bubby doing to seek accountability?
It’s a great point! We are 100% accountable to ourselves and want our customer base to feel confident that we live with integrity and do not make claims that are false. We also invite our consumers and retailers to question claims as it will only make us more focused on sustainability. After our initial conversations with Bowfish, we were inspired to get the word out and have updated our website with more information about what we are doing that equates with being a socially responsible brand. 
4) Love Bubby is known for making a statement. We too believe that no one is ever too little to make an impact, and that no change is too small to make a difference. What can we do to help children turn those statements and conversation starters into real actions?
I think the first thing is to lead by example. Our statement design “Save My World” is a perfect conversation starter.  Children want to be empowered and having conversations with them around what they can do to make a difference in this world is a great start. During the month of April we have Earth Day and it could be a great igniter for conversations around how to take sustainable actions within your family. I know my son loves to come up with things for us to do and is always the first to hold us accountable. 
5) What motivates you to achieve your sustainability goals?
I think the main thing is the challenge. It’s easier to rest on old industry practices or thoughts around it’s too challenging within the supply chain or too expensive. Our goal for 100% sustainable packaging within our retail and wholesale channels is exciting to think about. The difference we can make in eliminating waste and also {hopefully} inspiring other brands to take action is what fuels us make it happen. 

Q& A:
To Bowfish Kids from Love Bubby

1. We can't wait to learn more about what you are doing to become a more sustainable business. What are the 3 biggest changes in how you are approaching sustainability for 2021 and beyond?

I think the first significant change is the one I'm making within me, by holding myself responsible. I've found it beneficial since many of the things I've started doing at home can translate to things at Bowfish. Like replacing all plastic products/supplies with an eco-friendly option whenever possible. An easy one to change is to replace plastic trash bags with compostable trash bags. When I'm grocery shopping, I am more conscious about what I am buying and am actively opting for glass/paper options, if available. Also, I'm diligent about remembering to bring my own bag and water bottle with me wherever I go to avoid wasting single-use plastics. It’s an effort that our entire team has been pitching in with and it's insipring to see how it catches on with others.

The second change is what I like to call "sweating the small stuff." Basically, it means reevaluating all our supplies, practices, and processes and identifying the small stuff we can change quickly. What are the immediate, actionable things that we can do in-house that are steps toward a more sustainable way of living? Some of those small things that we've identified are as simple as really recycling paper. For example, we re-use ALL standard pieces of paper, primarily found in our mail/shipments. We utilize and recycle all of it and exclusively use "scrap paper" --as we call it, in our in-house printers used in our office.

The third change is a commitment to saying "No." --full stop to new partnerships, brands, products, vendors, or suppliers that don't have goals toward achieving sustainability within their roadmaps. In addition, we're also looking to utilize the relationships we currently have with vendors and brands and find innovative ways to move forward together... kind of like what we're doing together.

2. As we approached our goals at Love Bubby we have noticed that change can be hard. As you create these goals at Bowfish what has been the hardest part of bringing these things to life?

For sure, the most challenging part has been not getting overwhelmed. When I first began looking into making Bowfish more sustainable, I was paralyzed thinking about all that I needed to change. It's easy to get caught up on the big, systemic problems of waste and carbon emissions in our society but you have to start by focusing on what you can change today. I began implementing simple steps like those I previously talked about and shifted our focus toward planning for the future. Setting goals and measurable milestones have been the most challenging part for me. However, once we nailed it down, it's easier to have a path to follow. All of these changes represent a commitment to our customers and in turn, we know that they will be more committed to us.

3. What has been the consumer response to some of the changes you are making at Bowfish?

We receive a lot of emails and messages via social media from supportive parents, who talk about how we've inspired them to change things in their lives and their children's lives. Most of these messages are from young parents who may have the same feelings about the environment and sustainability but may not have had a way to amplify those feelings and their voices. Becoming a part of the Bowfish family has in a way given them a platform, and confidence, to express those feelings about the environment and sustainability. For example, in September of 2019, we held a Fridays For Future event we made t-shirts for parents and kids, many of who then marched down to the local city hall to show their support for Greta Thunberg and the Sunrise Movement.

4. We can only imagine how many brands you have at Bowfish and how many stories you tell a day to your customers. How are you streamlining these stories with this focus on sustainability?

We only feature brands that have clear, legitimate sustainability goals on our social media channels. We are also implementing a sustainability marketing agreement with all of our vendors that requires them to meet specific sustainability criteria in order to be featured on our homepage, in emails, or any form of advertising. While I think we do an excellent job of promoting our sustainability mission online, I will admit that we could do better in our face-to- face interactions on the shop floor. We've just been so busy building this behind the scenes. I am, however, installing a new check-out counter that I custom built to feature, along with some products, a poster outlining all the steps we are taking to become a sustainable business.

5. What motivates you to achieve your sustainability goals?

That's an easy one the kids. I mean, every day I'm surrounded by the next generation, so I feel directly responsible for a piece of their future. I think a lot about how the toys and other plastic products made for these children will be around, in some form, in the environment long into the future, when they're all grown up and have kids of their own. That just doesn't seem right to me. And that motivates me to make some kind of difference, no matter how small.