How we managed to launch and ship a new product, carbon-neutral and almost entirely plastic-free.
Late last year, we launched our first book, Lillian The Tiriki Girl, through a crowdfunding campaign and shipped 450 copies to various places throughout the world.
One of our core principles is to embed sustainable practices into every aspect of our business, and so it was important to get our books out in a way that minimised impact to the environment.
We therefore set the goals of doing it:
- Plastic free
- Using either fully recyclable or compostable packaging
- While still creating a delightful experience for our readers
And we got so close! The only thing that got in the way was having to resort to vinyl-based shipping labels — after trying and failing to get our compostable ones to work with the printer we’d picked up second hand.
As you might know, we are also passionate about transparency and sharing what we’re learning on this journey. So, here’s where we shine a light on how we made it all happen and our favourite suppliers.
The first shipment of our hardcover book arriving 🚚
Early on in our journey we knew we’d have to choose between printing locally and printing off-shore. After seeking feedback from our community and doing the math, we decided to print locally. This was in order to minimise our carbon emissions (through limiting the distance between production and our warehouse) and also to support local businesses and industry in the process.
We were thrilled to find a local printer, Southern Impact (previously known as Impact Digital) who use solar power, solar hot water, rainwater from tanks, and carbon offsets to be carbon-neutral, with goals of being carbon positive in the near future.
Right from the start, we had our eyes on working with Australian start-up Sendle as our shipping partner. However, as we got closer to Christmas, and faced some unpredictable shipping delays, we needed to turn our sights elsewhere.
We were pleasantly surprised to find out that Australia Post has also been offsetting the emissions on their parcel delivery since 2019. So we ended up going with a combination of the two, balancing the costs and cut-off dates for Christmas.
When it came to shipping labels, we ended up using the standard ones that came with the printer, as we had about four hours to fix the problem we’d run into and get printing again. Since wrapping up our launch, we’ve since switched to these ones from Noissue — they’re not perfect but we’re trying to make them work!
A photo kindly shared with us of our book being gifted to a little one 🔥
Because we’re an online businesses only at the moment, we wanted to create a beautiful experience when people received their parcels.
We wrapped each book with branded tissue paper by Noissue, and also used their paper based tape to brand and secure the outside of our boxes.
We used stickers from local company, Sustainable Printing Co. to hold the wrap in place and finally, wrapped them in a custom cardboard book wrap from local supplier Pack Queen.
For orders that we needed to add a bit of cushioning, we’d add some honeycomb kraft paper wrap, like this kind, which would hold everything together.
A couple of our goodies included in a package to @littlelibraryowl
We included some extra items in our launch packages, like stickers, tote bags and activity cards.
It was surprisingly difficult to find both sticker sheets and individual circular stickers (rather than supplied on a roll) that were also sustainably made and paper-based. We ended up finding a supplier, though not locally (Zap Creatives) and this is something we’ll be looking to change!
We sourced our cotton tote bags from Australian supplier Eco Bags and our printed activity cards were handled by our awesome printer, Southern Impact.
We hope that you found this helpful and perhaps picked up a few new suppliers to look into, or at least gives some insight into how much care and thought goes into every part of our products and business.
One of the biggest lessons we learned throughout our launch was to plan and budget well in advance. Sometimes the sustainable or ethical option is harder to find or can be slightly more costlier. But if you’re able to make the math work, and dedicate time to looking beyond the first search result, almost anything is possible!
If you think there’s some other suppliers that may be worth looking into, we’d love to hear from you.
Lessons Learned is a regular series from Small Fires about all the many things we’re learning as we create an organisation and products we’re proud of.
Part reflection, part working in the open, these learnings are here to share what we’re discovering and also give an insight into the operations and thinking behind the organisation. Have a question for us? We'd love to hear from you. Reach out to us here.
📸 Top photo by Karolina Grabowska