I receive several requests a week from companies telling me how much they think my readers would love to hear about their fabulous (their words, not mine) products. Some even offer to pay me. I turn them all down.
As someone with a passion for zero waste, plastic-free living and minimalism, I believe in practicing what I preach. I’m not interested in plastic-packaged anything, or overseas shipping, or “stuff” in general, and I’m pretty sure you’re not interested in me spruiking it, either.
I’m proud that I keep this website advertisement-free, and I don’t intend to change that by running sponsored content.
But a few weeks ago I received this email, and it made me look twice.
I am writing from our company Tipsy Oil. We are the world’s first company to collect, wash and reuse wine bottles for bottling our Western Australian grown extra virgin olive oil. Recycling the bottles actually costs more currently than buying brand new bottle but we’re not a company that aims to become a cash cow!
Additional to this, obviously one bottle of olive oil in a recycled bottle won’t save the world, but Tipsy definitely makes consumers slightly more aware about recycling. As a very young company, we are hoping to engage writers like yourself to review or post about our vision to gain a greater awareness of our product and ultimately help with the problem of pollution.
It piqued my interest.
Firstly, I love the fact that they use glass over plastic, and not new glass either: they re-use wine bottles – because they think it is the right thing to do. (I’ve talked often about how glass in Western Australia is not recycled by crushed into road base, so this has particular local relevance.)
Secondly, I love that they are a Western Australian company (based only a few suburbs away from me), making Western Australian olive oil using Western Australian grown olives.
It makes no sense to me that shops here continue to sell Italian and Greek olive oil when we produce our own oil in Australia. Nothing against Italian and Greek olive oil of course – if I lived in Italy or Greece that is what I would use! But why ship bottles of oil across the globe when we already have it here?
I also love the fact that they say “one bottle of oil in a recycled bottle won’t save the world, but…”. I think lots of companies DO think that their product will save the world, and I found this quite refreshing. As for the “but…” – to me, this says we know we’re not perfect, but we’re doing what we can.
But of course – I was suspicious ; ) I’ve learned the hard way that just because somebody says their product is green, that doesn’t mean that it is! I emailed back. Where were they sourcing these bottles? Can customers return the bottles for refills or re-use?
I received this lovely email response:
Returning the used olive oil bottles is an excellent idea and something that I just added to our Tipsy Trello board! Thanks so much for the idea!
The recycled bottles are currently sourced from Gargarno’s restaurant in Nedlands, Perth, WA. As we grow bigger and start gathering bottles from other restaurants, we hope to have a special label for each restaurant to show where the bottles came from. But right now there is still so much to organise!
I absolutely agree with your comments around plastic, and as we mature as a business we hope to move to 100% recycled goods. However, I am sure you can imagine the difficulties with even getting a product to the market!
To give you some back story, I started Tipsy back in 2014 at the ripe age of 23 with the vision of creating a fully recycled bottle company with staff that loved the company and at the same time work with local companies instead of mega corporations. Now 25, I realise that it’s a lot harder than just writing the idea down on a piece of paper. We’ve run into things like bureaucracy, labels that absorb oil, Anthracnose, and printers that don’t know where the centre of the label is. So I hope you can give us some time to get out recycled act together!
Also, just got a really great idea about using metal caps for Tipsy Bottles just then!
In fact, we had such a great email conversation afterwards that we’re planning to meet soon to talk about all things sustainability. I like their vision, their openness, their transparency – and their willingness to hear new ideas.
That was the best thing for me – being able to start the conversation, plant a seed and try to inspire change. They did send me a bottle of their oil: I insisted there was no plastic packaging, and the parcel looked like this:
The padded envelope is filled with recycled paper, so plastic-free. I hope that this is how they will choose to send other products in future.
As for the pourer, I would say it is unnecessary, but I have been meaning to get one since the bottle lid on refillable macadamia oil bottle split into two. Still, I’m not sure they should send them as standard. The small plastic bag?! Gah!
The bottle lid itself is plastic – I hope as a result of our conversation this is something that is going to change.
Let me make one thing clear. I won’t be buying this product myself, and I’m not going to pretend otherwise. I can buy olive oil in bulk from my local store, but I’ve gone one step further this year and picked and pressed my own olives. (Coincidentally, I filled old wine bottles!)
That said, I get that not everyone is going to want to bottle their own oil. Maybe you don’t have olive trees in your area. Maybe you don’t have access to an olive press. Maybe you simply can’t be bothered! (And that’s okay – we don’t all have the time or inclination to do everything ourselves.)
I also get that not everyone has access to a bulk store, and not all bulk stores sell olive oil. There need to be alternatives. What excited me about Tipsy Oil was the reminder it gave me that there are companies out there trying to do the right thing, and create positive change.
Where we can, I think it is important to support them. In particular, the whole experience brought home to me three important points:
It is important to start where people are at.
I could wax lyrical about how great picking my own olives is, or how wonderful my local bulk store is, but for many of you, that would not be helpful. All of us are on different journeys, and have different amounts of time, energy and patience available.
We may not be able to buy in bulk or pick our own, but we can all look for local suppliers, businesses and stores who are trying to do the right thing.
We can all ask questions and make conscious choices. And we can all champion the people and companies we find who are trying to do the right thing.
Whether we need what they are selling/would use it ourselves or not, I think there is an importance in spreading the word of those trying to make the world a better place.
Let’s start conversations.
Had I not had the conversation with Tipsy Oil, they might not have thought about switching their lids from plastic to metal.
They might not have thought about looking into a bottle return scheme for customers.
These are small things, but they still have an impact. It all makes a difference. Who is to say that other companies will see what these guys are doing and feel inspired to take action themselves? Actions are like ripples, and we have more influence than we think.
Simply asking questions, providing feedback, or even having a chat with the lady at the checkout about the choices we make all have the ability to spark change. Never underestimate the influence you have, nor your power to make a difference.
It’s not about perfect. It’s about doing what we can.
I truly wish that bulk stores were an option for everybody, but the reality is, they aren’t. Instead of thinking that because we can’t do everything, there is no point in doing anything: we should all do what we can.
Imagine if every single person on the planet committed to reducing their waste by just 10%? Think of the impact that would have!
Imagine if all of the people in Perth who don’t have access to bulk stores chose to purchase locally produced olive oil in re-used bottles – think of the carbon emissions and virgin glass we could save!
In my version of a perfect world, we would all shop at bulk stores, there would be no single use packaging, and the world would be a lovelier place. I definitely believe that this is something we can work towards: we can strive for perfection, but we also need to be realistic.
Let’s not let perfection stand in the way of better. Let’s start where people are at. Let’s make better choices ourselves, start conversations and begin new dialogues, and support those that try to make a difference.
It’s not about being perfect. It’s about doing what we can.
Now it’s your turn to tell me what you think! Is there anything you have struggled with because it is not “perfect”? Do you ever feel disheartened because you can’t do everything? Have you made compromises that are still better than your old choices, and if so what are they? Have you found local suppliers to champion or begun to ask questions and start conversations? Have you ever had a company change its policy or look into changing it simply because of something you said, or wrote, or suggested? Have you ever stopped supporting a company you previously loved because they were NOT open to change? Have you ever let “perfect” stand in the way of “better”? Do you have any other thoughts, questions or snippets of wisdom to add? I love hearing from you so please leave me a comment below!