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Monthly Focus On... October 2014

By Lucy Purdy:

Richness Taking Root

Growing food on their London allotment became a sanctuary from hectic city life for sisters Lou and Vix. Spending time there with friends, laughing and relaxing as they coaxed vegetables from the soil, reminded them of what was important in life. So when they decided to form an environmentally conscious business, the pair placed ethics and recycling firmly at its heart.

Taking time out to volunteer on organic farms in Portugal gave them the impetus to start Bough to Beauty, selling handcrafted jewellery from off-cuts of organic wood. The burgeoning enterprise proves that business does not have to be divorced from ethics or creativity. And the journey so far has been a rich and inspiring one.

Vix said: “We had both lived in and loved London for many years, but since the crash in 2008 London had become a tough place to work: the fun had gone. Everyone we knew was squeezed, employers were taking more and giving less. 

“Our fun times were the evenings and weekends spent at our allotment, growing our own food and spending time with friends.  The allotment became a mini oasis, that we could share with friends, where we could learn new skills and actually relax.

“We decided we wanted an ‘allotment life’ full time, so we went WOOFing [work exchange on organic and sustainable projects] to learn more about sustainable living, gardening, protecting the planet and organic farming. This trip opened our minds and released our creativity. It gave us the confidence and courage to follow our dreams, take the plunge and set up Bough to Beauty!”

In 2012, Vix was living in Melbourne, Australia, where she noticed a trend for quirky, wooden, eco-friendly jewellery. On her return to the UK, she realised there was a lack of choice in similar products here: a gap in the market.

“We both pondered the idea of launching an eco-friendly jewellery business in the UK,” she said.

“But it wasn’t until we went volunteering in Portugal that we had the time to focus on and develop our business idea. Whilst we were digging, planting and weeding on farms we hatched a plan to set up Bough to Beauty.”

The wood from comes from Portugal, a country the sisters grew to love and wanted to retain a connection with. Off-cuts come from an all-female design studio which works with organic wood.

“They don't speak much English and our Portuguese is pretty shocking but somehow we've managed to develop a really good working relationship,” laughed Vix.

And the resource-conscious ethos runs throughout the business: “We use hand stamped recycled card for our packaging and gift boxes. We also reuse envelopes to send out orders, as part of our pledge to reduce waste. Our customers receive their jewellery in stylish Bough to Beauty gift boxes, decorated with Fairtrade twine.” 

So why was recycling such a focus for Bough to Beauty?

“We practiced the ‘make do and mend’ approach to gardening on our allotment, passed on in our childhood by our granddad,” explained Vix.

“From using old containers as mini greenhouses, toilet rolls as biodegradable planters to reusing chicken wire to make leaf mulch cages, we have loads of great gardening tips to upcycle ‘rubbish’ and save money. Recycling is a big part of sustainable living, we believe it’s important to reuse what we already have and aim to create less waste, rather than continuing to consume resources.”

But she insists that recycling need not be a chore, rather a more conscious, fun and satisfying way to live.

“We organise ‘swap shops’ with our friends, where we swap books, clothes and accessories that we no longer use: everyone’s a winner! Before we went to Portugal, Lou took part in a Year Without Buying Clothes challenge, with a group of friends. This began as a protest against unethically made fashion items, prompted by the Rana Plaza factory collapse.

"Recycling need not be a chore, rather a more conscious, fun and satisfying way to live"

“We both wanted to become more ethically conscious as consumers, questioning where things come from, how they’re made, who made them and what materials they’re made of. As we endeavoured to improve our ethical and environmental consumer credentials, we were surprised at how hard it can be to answer these questions. We want to lead by example and encourage others to make environmentally conscious purchases and use sustainable materials.”

Now the pair are brimming with ideas for the future of the business. They would like Bough to Beauty to play an active role in the slow fashion movement and in ethical buying, as well as encouraging green initiatives. They are also developing the idea of wooden badges for businesses which they hope will encourage companies – from supermarkets to fast food chains – to phase out disposable plastic badges in favour of wooden ones.

And the sisters are also keen to support charities, donating a percentage of profits to them when they team up. 

“We have some moustache designs ready for Movember,” said Vix. “We are also working on two new earring designs to mix and match: they are influenced by our love of bees and wildflowers. We aim to raise awareness about their importance and we will soon be selling bee and wildflower earrings to help support related charities.” 

From being inspired by the organic processes they saw on their travels, the sisters now embrace a holistic, environmentally-aware approach themselves. But this is also much more than a business. Bough to Beauty is a statement of the way Vix and Lou would like to live; and these are products infused with creativity and passion. 

From bough to workshop to beauty in the form of broaches and earrings: this is something from nothing. Recycling in action. 

More Features:

The Revolution Will Be Composted

(June 2014) Skilfully designed, accessible to people the world over, and placing the needs of humans and the planet at its core, Permaculture is shot through with positivity. Dreamt up in Australia in the 1970s, a contraction of ‘permanent agriculture’, it is a design system for the growing of food based on nature’s own patterns and processes.

Beet the System

(April 2014) With the retail gardening industry now turning over £5 billion a year, the soaring popularity of the grow-your-own movement has been accompanied by a huge surge in business. Lucy Purdy discovers how, by thinking creatively and using recycled materials, there is no need to spend a small fortune, or any more of the planet’s resources, on your growing efforts.

A flood of kindness

(March 2014) A volunteer army is being assembled to tackle storm debris on UK beaches, just one of the measures to sort and recycle the rubbish left in the wake of recent bad weather.

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