The Do Less Harm Directory is live. And you will notice that it’s far from complete. Hopefully it will never be complete until we can add every company making anything to do with the home but in the meantime I wanted to launch it so you could start to see what it looks like.
At the moment it has a lot of paint and a lot of bedding although those are two of the most important items for the home. I decided that rather than keep adding to it and having nothing to share for about three months I would compile what I had and then just update it every few days as new information comes in.
You will see there is a contact form at the bottom. Fill it in! And tell your friends and your PRs and tell me about companies you know that are doing well. I am in the process of contacting the High Street stores – although they don’t always come rushing back to me – but I need you to tell me about small businesses that are doing the right thing.
You will also notice that, at this stage, the entries are often long. This is because it was also a learning curve for me and I thought you might also appreciate the extra information. For example, Ted Todd says on its website that a “company can be FSC certified without selling FSC products” which I wouldn’t have thought about once I saw the FSC label but now that I have read that I know to ask more questions.
You may also note that while many paints are actually vegan most companies don’t have certification to that effect so if a paint you like isn’t mentioned then ask them what their position is. And, when it comes to paint, this from Earthborn, was also interesting: “’Natural’ and ‘organic’ are words that have been borrowed from the food industry. In the paint industry however, these terms have no legal meaning and can be misleading. ‘Natural’ is often used as shorthand hand for ‘healthy, wholesome and eco’. However many traditional, natural ingredients in paint can also be hazardous. Think about lead and turpentine (derived from trees) which are either banned or controlled because of the harmful effect on health and the environment. When people ask for ‘natural’ they usually mean healthy and eco-friendly, and those are the criteria we use at Earthborn when formulating our paints.”
So yes, for the time being it’s a lot of paint and mattresses but, with your help, and a little more time, I aim to expand this to include the High Street, lots of furniture companies, accessories and lighting.
In the meantime, I have included a list of resources where you can find more information.
I also wanted to include this email, which I received this week from a small business, which I thought would also provide clarification on the difficulties they face and why, for many of them, doing less harm has to be done in small steps if they are to survive. They, like the rest of us, need the big businesses, the councils and the governments to help out.
“I am the 6th generation of a family furniture retail business, Reynolds Furniture, based in Bognor Regis. Your point on sustainability in furniture [on the recent podcast where Sophie Robinson and I discussed this campaign] really struck home, I went to the board meeting last year with my Uncles and Dad who are all company directors and said how important being honest with customers and improving the company waste was. It was received with much enthusiasm.
“As a small business the recession hit us hard in 2010 and we underwent many changes to reduce costs. Also the uncertainty of the last couple of years has made everyone slightly less open to big changes. Customers don’t want to spend the money they did on furniture anymore. Many big brands mass produce in China, Thailand, Lithuania etc.
However some great upholstery is still manufactured like Parker Knoll, Duresta -and smaller companies like Alston’s are also very affordable to the public.
“As a business we recycle everything we can from the warehouse, but it all does come massively packaged in plastic and cardboard. We recycle as much as we can but it’s amazing how expensive it is to recycle a mattress. It’s not surprising that many people dump them on the road side instead.
“I am very environmentally aware and try my best at home for the future of my kids. But as a business it’s very expensive even for us to have recycling collection from our council for our offices; there is a lack of incentives for business.
“We do shred lots of our paperwork and it goes to someone who knows someone with a horse so it does have a second use.”
All valuable food for thought and, as I said, in the first post on the subject, this is why it’s so hard to do no harm – no-one is perfect but we must all strive to do less harm balancing that against supporting small and local businesses and keeping our high streets and communities alive as well.
This directory is just the start. I hope you will find it useful.