We understand that as a business and as individuals we have an impact on the environment, and we are working hard to minimise our environmental footprint. Our focus is on eliminating waste from our business, especially plastic packaging, and minimising the carbon emissions from electricity use and product transport. We are actively sourcing new materials for our products and packaging that are sustainably certified, recycled, recyclable or biodegradable.
We are passionate about protecting the environment and its precious resources and we are working towards being a zero-waste business. We follow the principles of refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle and our aim is that nothing from our business should go to landfill.
Currently, more than 90% of the waste at our facilities is recycled. We have dedicated recycling bins for paper and cardboard, soft plastics, organic waste and mixed recycling throughout our stores, office and warehouses, to ensure waste ends up in the right place. Where we don’t have an available recycling option, we are actively working with external partners to find solutions.
Paper and Cardboard
We have partnered with a local paper mill and cardboard carton manufacturer, Lakeside Packaging in Campbellfield Victoria. They collect and recycle our clean paper and cardboard waste and convert it back into 100% recycled cardboard shippers onsite.
Our soft plastic waste is collected by a local recycler based in Geelong, Victoria. They collect and sort our soft plastics and send them to specialist recyclers offshore to be converted into new products including bin liners, black builders’ film and irrigation pipes. Our preference is to recycle this plastic within Australia, and our search to find a suitable onshore recycler is ongoing.
With a team of 80+ staff, we consume a LOT of lunches, coffee and tea. We have established worm farms at our head office to compost our food waste, including our coffee grounds and tea bags. The worm juice and castings are harvested regularly and shared with staff to use on their own gardens. We estimate this will divert more than 700kg of waste from landfill each year.
We are no longer purchasing single-use plastic items such as plastic straws, balloons, bottled water, disposable coffee cups, disposable plates and cutlery. We buy in bulk where we can and taking reusable shopping bags when shopping locally. We also encourage staff to purchase take away food using shared reusable containers rather than in disposable packaging where possible.
E-Waste, Printer Cartridges & Batteries
We collect our e-waste, printer cartridges and batteries and send to Planet Ark or other environmentally accredited organisations for recycling.
All of our stationary and other non-electrical office items are recycled by TerraCycle through their Office Supplies Zero Waste Box.
We are in the fortunate position to have limited excess stock, and any product left over at the end of a season is sold through various sales initiatives or donated to organisations such as Fitted for Work and others. Our policy is that no ELK product goes to landfill.
We have a number of single shoes from sampling and other sources and these are donated to SCR Group who are meeting a need for single shoes in war-ravaged areas like the Middle East for victims of war that have tragically lost limbs and only require a single shoe.
REPAIR, REUSE, RECYCLE
We are committed to extending the life of our products and finding a next use solution for ELK products at the end of their life. Our preference is to repair wherever possible, but if an item cannot be repaired then we will reuse or recycle its components.
Although we design for quality and longevity, repairs are occasionally required. We offer an in-house repair service for our wooden jewellery and leather goods and outsource any repairs that we cannot do ourselves. We encourage our wholesale partners to work with local repairers, which supports local business and reduces transport impacts.
If an item cannot be repaired, it is deconstructed, and the components are either donated or sent to a textile recycler. Beads from jewellery items are donated to local charities, local schools and kindergarten art rooms. We have also partnered with not for profit organisation Boomerang Bags to donate our remnant and off-cut fabrics which they use to make reusable cloth shopping and produce bags.
IMPROVING OUR PACKAGING
Packaging plays an important role in protecting our product during transport and reducing product waste due to damage, however, we recognise that it has an impact on our environment. We are working hard to minimise this impact by reducing and reusing packaging where possible, and increasing our use of materials that are renewable, recycled, recyclable, biodegradable and sustainably certified. Our focus is on removing plastic packaging from our supply chain.
We have replaced the biodegradable plastic bubble wrap in our warehouse with paper-based options, including a perforated cardboard wrap which we make in-house from our own used cardboard shipper cartons. For more delicate items we use a finer perforated Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified brown kraft paper.
Our products come to us packaged in plastic poly bags, which are necessary to protect them from damage during transport. We have trialled a number of options to reduce the use of poly bags, including; bulk packing, using smaller bags, using compostable or plant derived plastics and shipping without poly bags wherever possible. Our first trial shipment using smaller bags was successful, and we are rolling this out across the apparel range which will reduce the amount of plastic from poly bags by around 60%.
We have eliminated plastic mailing satchels from 30% of our online orders by redesigning our online shipper cartons to be sent without an additional satchel. We estimate that this will save 5000+ plastic satchels a year. We were very excited to discover, by questioning our shipping partners, that we could also eliminate the plastic invoice pocket by placing the invoice inside the box. For the orders that still require a mailing satchel, we are now using a certified home compostable satchel made from corn starch.
Our smaller ELK cardboard shippers are made from a 100% recycled bleach-free board. These shippers are fully recyclable and are made and printed locally using biodegradable vegetable-based inks.
ELK PRINTED MATERIALS
We create a range of printed materials throughout the year to support our seasonal collections. When printing on paper, we look to use the highest level of post-consumer recycled fibre content possible. Any new fibre content must have Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification.
Our catalogues are printed on Maine Recycled Paper, which is made from a mix of 60% post-consumer recycled waste and 40% FSC certified pulp from responsibly managed forests. This paper is Processed Chlorine Free and Elemental Chlorine Free and is carbon neutral from the raw material to the printer.
Our office printer paper is 100% recycled, with FSC Recycled certification.
We have committed to minimising our use of precious energy resources across the business and offsetting any greenhouse gas emissions that we do generate.
To reduce our electricity use we have installed energy efficient LED lighting across our buildings. The LED lighting upgrade to our Reservoir warehouse is expected to save 19 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year. Timers have also been installed on our coffee machines and main office printers to ensure they are switched off when the office is closed. When purchasing new appliances, we look for the highest energy star rating.
Where possible we choose to sea freight all bulk products, rather than using air freight, to reduce carbon emissions.
We have switched to using cleaning solutions in our business that are gentler on people and the environment. The liquid soaps that we use are plant-based, grey-water and septic safe and not tested on animals, and we buy our hand wash in bulk and refill our containers. We have reusable cloth hand towels in our bathrooms and have also replaced disposable kitchen cloths and brushes with reusable microfiber cloths and dish brushes made from natural and compostable coconut fibre bristles. Our kitchen bins liners are certified compostable and plastic-free.
When necessary, dry cleaning is done by Laundry Box, who collect garments in low emission vans and clean the pieces in organic, biodegradable and environmentally friendly cleaning products using an energy and water efficient process.