Natural Spa Supplies Ethical Policy
‘Eco Supplies without the Greenwash’
Our business is to supply people with completely natural, often single-ingredient products – always plastic free. We pride ourselves on having had our key ethical policies in place before the business started in 2007, where I focused on ‘traditional, plastic free’ products which return to nature after use, ‘biodegradability’. We believe that at the time, no other eco companies were had such strict values and we are glad to see that ‘plastic free’ has become the new ethical expectation. Our company ethics are fundamental to every business decision.
Here is an outline of our general ethical code which applies across the business as a whole. Each product has its own particular set of ethics too which you can explore on the product pages. I hope you find it illuminating!
Zero Greenwash – What is green washing?
Greenwashing is when a company makes itself look more environmentally friendly than it is. So an oil company might make donations to a wildlife charity and imply that it is actively involved in saving the environment.
A company might use the word ‘natural’ on their product packaging, but when you look at the ingredients, the list contain artificial ingredients which are harmful to nature or to the person who uses them.
A company might declare itself ‘carbon neutral’. They congratulate themselves on offsetting their carbon emission with elaborate carbon capture schemes (burying carbon or tree planting). But they are still carrying on as normal polluting the planet – not just with the carbon that they count, but with other forms of air pollution such as releasing volatile organic compounds, methane, or other global warming gasses into the atmosphere. Behind the smokescreen of green sounding soundbites, they are discharging forever chemicals into our water ways, or playing with nuclear materials which can effect the planet for millions of years.
The latest form of greenwashing is for companies to change their corporate structure, so that ‘nature’ (a group of people outside of the company) becomes a shareholder and discussion maker. They will broadcast that they are ‘owned by nature,’ ‘nature is their boss’ but all of these decisions that shareholder make are made by people – it is just wordplay.
At Natural Spa Supplies, there is no greenwashing, no word play. Our core range of products come straight from nature and after use, easily biodegrade or return to nature. We don’t need to dress this up – our business is as eco as it gets.
Plastic Free Product Packaging
It is much easier to find plastic free packing now than it was years ago. We still use glass and paper, for most of our products. Yes, glass is more expensive for packing oils, floral waters and our other products, but we know that our products keep better in glass and the contents will not be contaminated with plasticizers which can cause hormone disruption and other health issues.
Another reason to avoid plastics is that even when consumers put used plastics in their recycling bin, only about 9% of plastics in the UK are ever recycled. Those plastics which are not recycled are either incinerated, get dumped in landfill sites where they release global warming gasses, or they are exported to other countries – this not only increases their carbon emissions due to them being exported, but we don’t have measures in place to assure that they are recycled as intended. Lots of this exported plastic waste ends up in the sea.
Being made of glass we invite our customers to reuse the jars and bottles before they send them to recycling. Be assured, glass can be recycled time and time again.
We were the first ever company to offer our toothbrush sticks without plastic packaging. The manufacturer had always packed each stick in its own plastic sheaf, but we now buy bulk packed Miswak and supply them in greaseproof paper bags. It is the same with our clays, our Soapnuts, Alum Crystal, Toothbrush Sticks … we were the first to provide ‘plastic free’ supplies.
Plastic Free Postal Packaging
We use cardboard boxes with paper tape (with natural, not solvent based adhesives) and paper wadded envelopes which protect the products very well. Surrounding businesses donate used cardboard boxes and our cardboard shredder turns them into void fill. We did used to use straw but we worked out that we could reduce out carbon footprint by shifting to shredded cardboard. Consumers might use our packaging on their compost heap or as garden mulch?
The Raw Products of Nature, Unprocessed Products, Minimally Processed…
Our core products come straight from nature and we like to keep them in their raw and pure state as far as we can. Here are some examples – Our floral waters are steam distilled and left in their pure state, no alcohol or preservatives are added. Not only are the products, in our opinion more alive and active, it means that you can get creative and formulate with them at home.
Our alum is simply collected from the desert surface and we reduce huge blocks into sensible sizes for use as a deodorant. The modifications are minimal and neither involve adding anything or taking any think away from the products. This saves lots of pollution and lots of energy.
If you take two typical everyday products such as a bottle of shampoo and a bottle of hair conditioner, between them, they might contain 40 plus ingredients, many of which are synthetic (unlike our natural hair care products). Each of these has been processed in a factory and then transported to the manufacturer. Think of the embodied energy and the combined transport miles? You will agree the impact on the planet of using simple shampoo made from a single ingredient – clay and a simple hair conditioner such as Seaweed or Marshmallow Root is vastly lower.
Using the Free Energy of Nature
Our Rhassoul clay, originally formed from a transformation of volcanic ash is dug by hand, (not jetted out with water, by explosives or by huge machines). It is then turned into a slurry using river water to sieve out stones. It is then sun dried and milled. So you can see that, volcanic and geothermal processes made the clay in the first place, and then as the clay is sun dried, being a crystal, it is infused with the energy of the earth, sun and moon.
At our head office, our storage building has a living sedum roof which helps to insulate the building, preventing it getting too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. Most of the power used comes from solar panels and an air source heat pump. When we moved into our warehouse we did a refit to include low energy LED lighting, touchless taps, a water saving touchless toilet, IR heating, more insulation and a car charger. We look for every opportunity to keep our carbon footprint as low as we possibly can.
Continuous Product Testing
We test our products to find the most efficient and best ways to use them. Back in 2007 it was suggested that it would take 1kg of clay to wash the hair or to use in a bath. We disagreed and invited journalist to test out our low usage guidelines – 5-20g for a hair wash depending on the length and thickness of the hair, 20g for a face mask…what a difference!
No Luxury Branding
Some products look so pretty in shops. Specially shaped bottles in boxes, adorned with guilded writing, embossed decorations, polyester ribbons. But you can’t shampoo your hair with the beautiful box, or moisturize your face with a ribbon. Also these ‘extras’ aren’t kind to the environment. Our bottles come in plain cardboard wraps designed to get them through the postal system in one piece. It is the contents that matter not the fancy eye-candy packaging. By focussing on the products we can provide you with the best quality product for the least amount of money – this is true value.
We Support Ancient Methods of Manufacture
With my background in archaeology and anthropology, I have always been keen to support traditional methods of manufacture – many of these processes have been used for thousands of years. If the traditional ways aren’t supported, they can go into decline. The skills and secrets vanish for ever.
Take our Blue Indigo. The leaves are harvested, wilted and then instead of using chemicals such as caustic soda to turn the green leaf into a blue dye, we honour the time-tested process of fermenting the leaves on camel and goat urine. This ancient method gives us an aroma free indigo of very high purity and highly anti-microbial, which can be used in leave on applications – so you could use the blue indigo in a face cream, add some to your argan oil, and even sleep and walk around on it when you use it as a natural laundry whitener for your sheets and clothing.
All of our products come from sustainable sources – which means they can be collected or grown time and time again without depleting the source. When our Greek sea sponges are collected, the divers break buds off the sponge which grown into new sponges and leave the root of the mother sponge behind so it can regrow. Sponge beds which are harvested in this way are more productive. In other countries sponges are often dredged and this causes the seabed to become barren.
All of our wooden items come from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) sources.
Where possible we select organic products – such as out floral waters, argan oil, clays, seaweed, marshmallow etc. However many of our speciality products, such as the blue indigo, henna and pine tar come from such small producers or are in such rural situations that gaining organic status would be beyond our means. We can be assured that no chemicals are used to grow the henna and indigo – these crops simply don’t need chemical interventions, but we can not provide certificates. We would rather support these small specialised producers who use their traditional (often pre-industrial) techniques than choose a larger producer.
We feel there is an undue emphasis on organic certification and many business have sprung up to organically certify products and businesses. There is clearly a lot of money to be made selling certificates. Sometimes, I get close to registering with one of the companies, but then my judgement sets in. I was on the point of joining B Corp this year, but then I saw a drink for sale in a Tetra Pak carton, showing the B Corp logo on the packaging. Hardly any of these Tetra packs ever get recycled, actually, just 2%. That means 98% of these Tetra Paks become landfill litter. It doesn’t reflect well on the certifier and their certification scheme. So I am still looking.
Almost all of our products are multipurpose. Take our Hemp Oil Soap – it can be used for washing and exfoliating the skin, shaving and for tackling some of the most difficult cleaning tasks – burnt pans, the hob, the cooker extractor hood, the sink, pet bowls. Given the fact that it is extremely naturally antimicrobial, it is used for hygiene as well to wash the hands and nails, and for cleaning contact points such as door handles, toilet seats and such like.
The Rhassoul Clay not only makes a world renowned ‘no tears’ shampoo, but it is amazing at cleaning and detoxing the skin. Our Alum too, is more than a natural unfragranced deodorant, it works wonders for insect bite relief, for athletes foot and as a shaving styptic. Our Argan Lip Balm works wonders on nails. Our Organic Rose Water, while great for optimising skin health and reducing blemishes, also works brilliantly as a natural aftersun.
These are anti-consumerist products – where you buy less things that do more. It frees up space in your house and makes your life easier to manage.
Pioneering the Best Ways to Use Eco Products
Supporting Consumers in the Eco Journey
Eco Education When we started out, only a handful of people in the UK were washing their hair and body in clay, nobody knew about natural alum deodorant (which doesn’t grow in plastic packages), nobody was using amphoras to improve their tap water. Hardly anyone had heard of Soapnuts. Consumers had been divorced from nature. We have really worked hard over the years to help people find our natural products and to learn about them. We respect the intelligence of our customers and help them to develop ‘expert’ ways of using the products we send to them.
We also worked out that many of our products can be prepared by consumers without the need for heat. So many of our customers turn their dried seaweed fronds into hair conditioner by just adding cold water, the same with our marshmallow root hair condition and the Soapnuts. Of course customers can use hot water if they wish to speed up the process.
In the very early days of the business, we also established ways to wash with the clay which used a bare minimum of water, such as ‘strip washing’ or simply washing at the sink. These efficient techniques went out of fashion when everyone got showers in the 1970s. Over the years we have promoted these techniques, along with efficient shower techniques to teach customers how to use much less water in the shower when washing with clay. These ideas might not have seemed that significant at the time, but every way of saving natural resources and cutting down on household bills helps.
All of our products are selected as suitable for use on people with sensitive skin and they are therefore ‘hypoallergenic.’ With our core products containing a single ingredient and our manufactured products containing just a few necessary ingredients, for example our Argan Lip balm just contains Argan Oil, Beeswax and Gum Acacia, these are unlikely to cause issues on even the most sensitive skin. Whereas, if you put a complex product on sensitive skin, you can set off an immune reaction. We want customers and their families to enjoy using our products and to be able to use them time and time again. We also keep our formulas the same so you know where you are.
Focussed on The Necessities of Life
When I started Natural Spa Supplies, I restarted my life by going back to the basics with a few core products – the Rhassoul Clay, Argan Oil, Alum Crystal, Henna, Pumice Stones and Lip Balm. Over time, I sourced new products as I recognised the need for them – that is once I had identified a product I could rely on! Toothbrush Sticks for cleaning the teeth, an Exfoliating Glove of nettle and copper fibre, Seaweed Hair Conditioner, Dishcloths, Scrubbies these are all indispensable in my life and I think you will find them incredibly useful too. That means I can hold my hand on my heart knowing that we are providing products which are necessary for personal care and cleaning and that our products are never frivolous or gimmicky.
Sourcing Natural Products
British Sourcing, Issues and Successes
In the past while Britain did produce many products for personal care and cleaning. Now many of these have stopped being produced. We had world class ‘healing clays’ but they are no longer mined. We had a large Horn Comb and Brush production industry, but these have largely fallen by the wayside. While some products are still produced in the UK such as Rose Water and Lavender Water, we need to make sure that we always choose quality over convenience. Our summers just aren’t as predictable as we would like, and the quality of the floral water varies tremendously year on year. So for these we choose reliable foreign sources, Morocco for the Rose Water and France for the Lavender Water.
Likewise with our Sea Sponges – British coastal water do support sponge populations, however the waters are too cold for divers to collect sponges. Our sponges are collected from Greece, a prime source of sponges going back thousands of years. Sometimes, it is necessary to source from abroad.
Sourcing our Hemp Oil, the basis of our Hemp Oil and Pine Tar Soap from Britain, has been very successful. We have the perfect climate for growing hemp and we are proud that on the borders of Norfolk and Suffolk, the Waveney Valley used to be Britain’s primary hemp growing region.
We Support Cooperatives
Our Argan Oil and Rose Water are both produced by women owned cooperatives. In these organisations, the business is owned and managed by its employees and the profits are shared between them. Co-ops are particularly important in developing countries because they not only provide a fair wage, but working in a cooperative encourages literacy and supports computer skills. These skills spread out through their communities.
We Support Family Businesses over Large Corporations
Our Amphoras are made by a 4th generation potter, our Sponges are collected by a business which has involved 3 generations of the same family, our Horn Comb makers are a father and son team. Business such as these are reservoirs human knowledge and keep families together. Most importantly these family teams take special pride in the quality of their products.
Long Term Suppliers
We have worked with many of our suppliers since the outset of the business. Over the years we have developed strong relationships of trust and we gain greater product insights.
Strict Limits on Chinese Made Goods
Currently we only sell one product which is made in China. It is a bamboo toothbrush holder. It is simply because there are no other sources of affordable wooden toothbrush holders in the world. If I was getting wooden toothbrush holders made in the UK, from native woods, I would probably have to sell them at five times the price. There is value to traditional sourcing, because every country has access to different resources. China has always been known for its bamboo goods and silk. It is unfortunate that so many ‘eco companies’ sell almost nothing but Chinese made goods, articles which could be made in Europe. All of our other wooden items are made in the EU with FSC certified wood.
All the reviews that we have collected over the years are genuine and traceable back to the reviewer through their email address. We have never paid for reviews, offered incentives or rewards.
We do hope that as a customer that you will leave product reviews because your insights massively help other customers to choose eco products.
How to leave a review. Just under the main picture, on each product page, you will find the review tab. Just click on that and leave your name and your review, and your email address remains hidden.
Brand Control and Business Ethics
We did at one time have an Amazon account and when we started Amazon was very strict. If you sold a product on Amazon, you would need to have that product available on your website too – as a form of accountability. This is no longer the case.
Over the years we feel that Amazon prioritised growth over standards and we feel they are a real threat to high street businesses and British manufacturers. At the moment in the region of half Amazon sellers are based in China – this means that British manufacturers who can’t compete with China, cease to manufacture the myriad of items we need in day to day life, making us all dependants of another far off country. Meanwhile UK businesses loose the skills and the development they need to stay ahead of the game.
We are aware too that Amazon’s head office is in Luxemburg which means our country doesn’t get our share of corporation taxes. With Amazon’s main UK division, this year they got a tax credit (from tax payers) of £7.7 million, despite sales of £6.56 billion. This undercuts local businesses who do pay all their taxes and don’t get all these handouts. If you are interested to read more, this Guardian article is a good starting point.
We began to see more and more issues with Amazon and had to get out. It was very difficult for us to close our account – it took over a year and there are still some fragments of our activity on Amazon. Some of our photographs and listings remain. Amazon allows other sellers to list on pages we set up. It means that unknown sellers take advantage of our great reviews and use our images and product descriptions, even though we don’t supply them with these products. I see this as fraud, but of course Amazon doesn’t.
We do supply a few of our products to other ‘vetted’ eco companies. However we never, ever support unauthorised ‘drop shippers.’ Drop shipping works like this. I sell a product on my website for £7.00. I intend this to go straight into the hands of my valued customer. That’s fine isn’t it?
With ‘drop shipping’, a business owner without my permission copies data off my website, lists my products on another portal perhaps in a different county (it could be Amazon in America for example) for an inflated price, say $45. A gullable buyer pays the $45, the drop shipper places the order on our website using the details of the gullable customer. We send it to the hapless customer. So we might make £1.00 on the transaction after it is reduced by taxes. The drop shipper who does next to nothing makes perhaps $30? Unauthorised drop shippers like these are the true parasites of the business world. It is astonishing that there are no laws against it because they are misrepresenting brands and cheat people out of money. We check our orders thoroughly to make sure this practise isn’t going on. We hope that our customers will always buy from us directly for the real value prices and that in the course of their online shopping they won’t fault foul of this malpractice. If a seller indicates that the product could take a few weeks to deliver, the chances are they don’t stock it – beware.
We Pay UK Taxes
We pay VAT, Corporation Tax and National Insurance to UK authorities. We pay our staff above the living wage.
Unlike many small and larger businesses who ‘wing it’ and take action once they have been hacked or ransomed. Cyber crime is rife and last year some 39% of UK businesses were hacked. [source, gov.uk] We pay an IT security specialist to maintain our digital security at all times and we host our website on a cutting edge server. We don’t take any risks with customer data. We also perform a regular audit through the leading government scheme enabling us to display our Cyber Essentials security certificate. Only 6% of British business seem to know about the Cyber Essential Scheme, so we are on the vanguard. Here is the link to view our Cyber Security Certificate.
We are totally open and honest with our customers and honest about our products and would never supply them with anything that we didn’t think would benefit them.
Yes, you can talk to the company director – me. I often help to answer email questions or talk customers through instructions over the phone. Unlike so many company directors, I do show my face, I am here to help you on your eco journey. I am involved with all aspects of the company but most important I do choose and use all the products which are on the website.
Product expertise and qualified advice for skin and hair issues
Besides using all the products and gaining a deep understanding of what they do, we listen closely to customer feedback and learn from our customers. I am also a qualified Clay Therapist though the Association of Natural Medicines which means that I can give professional advise on how to use clay and related body care products for common skin and hair issues. Our advice is not read from ‘scripts’. It is based on what we know about the product and what you tell us about yourself, within a professional context.
Charitable and Environmental Work
Tree Planting Scheme
We looked into joining a scheme where part of sales proceeds are invested a tree planting organisation. You see schemes such as ‘We plant a tree with every purchase’.
As a village tree warden myself, I know what this entails – in fact tree planting is the easy bit. First they have to be grown and after planting, they can need supplementary watering for up to five years. It is a sad fact that many of trees that are planted under mass schemes fail to make it even through the first year. With mass tree planting schemes, we have no real idea what type of trees are planted where. This doesn’t build any type of attachment or bring the donors any closer to nature.
So we’re are pioneering a different sort of scheme. From September 2023, after the tree seed gathering season, we will add a checkbox onto the check out page asking if you would like us to include a tree seed with your order. It will be a native British tree and we will include information on how to germinate and care for the seeds, how to nurture the young tree and how to find a suitable location in which to plant it. Perhaps your homegrown trees will be planted to mark family events, to improve your community, or to fill a gap in a hedge (natures highways). You will have the chance to enjoy your tree and care for it. I think that’s better for us and for the trees.
Hedgehog Charity Work
We have recently starting working with a local hedgehog rescue centre, Hog House. According to various sources, hedgehogs could become extinct in the UK with 3-5 years. It is shocking, but part of the bigger picture, because in the UK we have already lost 50% of our biodiversity and 40% of our species are in a state of terminal decline.
We are supporting the charity in the following ways:
We donate products – such as our test batches of soap, very useful Scrubbies, clays, hygiene products for the volunteers and so on.
We also provide expertise in natural care. Typically when an ailing hedgehog is brought to the hedgehog centre, it will be on death’s door. It might have been lacerated by a garden strimmer, run over by a car, attacked by magpies, poisoned by slug pellets or rat poison. Many are drastically underweight due to lack of food sources and restricted availability to roam in search of food due to fencing, walls, roads and other restrictions. In this impoverish state, typically a new rescue hog appears malnourished, starving hungry, infested with fleas, containing thousands of ticks and with ringworm and of course with life threatening injuries.
The new arrival is assessed and life support is given such as subcutaneous fluids, antibiotics, food and water. They are often ravenously hungry. The wounds are dressed or if they are very severe, the hedgehog is taken to the vets for specialist procedures. Then comes the task of getting rid of the fleas and removing each tick. This phase can take 6-10 hours, but it is important to remove all of these parasites so the hedgehog can heal.
Our first recommendation at the charity was to wrap a new arrival hedgehog in rhassoul clay, leave it on for 30 minutes while keeping the hedgehog warm and the clay damp. After a quick rinse the hedgehog is returned to its pen. Then over the next day, thousands of ticks and fleas spontaneously drop off. It saves the wild hedgehog the stress of being handled excessively while ticks are manually removed and saves the carer a whole work day. We are continuing to pioneer new ways of helping these archaic mammals to get better sooner so they can be released again in the wild. I can’t say how much time or what percentage of the profits goes to helping hedgehogs, but I can say that without these products, which have taught me so much, I wouldn’t have been of any help at all. I am privileged to work with these products and to have the opportunity to help.
If you have read this far – congratulations! We hope this information can help you to make the best eco choices and avoid being ‘greenwashed’. There is much more we could list, but I think you will appreciate that we are powered by ethics, we stand behind our products and that we feel a real sense of responsibility to our amazing planet and our wonderful customers.