When Emma Bianco gave birth to her first child, she set out on a quest to find natural, non-toxic baby products, but found huge gaps in a market filled with synthetics and plastic. We spoke to Emma about the creation of Pure Earth Collection – a range of natural, non-toxic and biodegradable children’s products, which are designed to used for many years and passed down through generations.
Embarking on a mission to help you to make informed choices about the fabrics and ingredients in your children’s products, and to provide a wider choice of natural options, Emma Bianco founded Pure Earth Collection. The brand’s core passion is to keep children safe and protect their future by looking after both their health and that of our planet, with all products created using natural, sustainable and biodegradable materials, with no nasty chemicals. Furthermore, for every item bought, Pure Earth Collection pledges to remove plastics from our shores and oceans through a partnership Surfers Against Sewage.
Here Emma shares her inspiration and sustainable priorities for the business, as well as the challenges in running a sustainable business, particularly during this challenging year:
What inspired you to launch your business?
My own personal search for baby products made from natural and non-toxic materials was what inspired me to start the business. I realised very quickly that most products in the baby market are synthetic, plastic and often toxic. There were a small number of lovely brands providing alternatives to some things, but there were huge gaps in the market and items which I just couldn’t find in a natural, safe and environmentally friendly form. This is not only hugely important for the environment, but also for the health of babies and kids.
What are your sustainable priorities for Pure Earth Collection?
Our priority is the health and safety of babies and the planet. So, when choosing fabrics, we will always favour natural, biodegradable and non-toxic options. Where that’s not possible (for example, zips), our next priority is to make sure we choose recycled and safe materials – we don’t use any virgin plastic and we make sure we choose the safest possible plastic types. PET plastic is a lot safer and less toxic than PVC, so we’ll always prioritise the safer, less damaging plastics when plastics really are the only option.
How did you first become interested in sustainability?
I’ve always been a huge lover of nature and being outside, so I’ve always been interested in the environmental impacts of human actions. This interest became even stronger after the birth of my first baby, which coincided with the release of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series highlighting some of the sustainability issues going on around the world.
What impact did having children have on your view of sustainability/the environment?
When you have a baby you start to think of the future as being way beyond the span of your own life. You start to think not only about your child’s life, but also your grandchildren, and their children too! The world is a beautiful place and I’ve been lucky enough to experience so many wonderful things first hand. To think that future generations may not get to experience these things, or worse still, have to clear up the huge mess that our generation leaves behind, is a tragic thought. We have a responsibility to leave the world a better place.
2020 has been a difficult year for many people and particularly independent business owners, how have you navigated this time?
As I know it has been for many people, 2020 has been the most challenging year of my life! Running a company through the first lockdown with no childcare, and with all the problems that the pandemic brought to the business, was, and still remains, a huge challenge. On top of this there’s the anxiety, grief and sadness that me and my loved ones have experienced this year. On the business side, the supply has been our main issue, meaning our new and replacement stock has been delayed by up to 6 months. This, in turn, has had a big impact on our revenues. We’ve had to be very dynamic and adapt in order to stay afloat. We had a total re-think of our marketing strategy, our hiring plans and our product schedule.
As Pure Earth Collection has grown, how has your eco strategy developed?
At first, the main objective of the business was to use natural products for the safety of babies and children. This almost always goes hand in hand with sustainability as fabrics which are safer for humans tend to be safer for the planet too. We’re trying to spread more awareness of the eco message and encourage people to start thinking more about sustainability in relation to their purchases.
What are the biggest challenges when it comes to making sustainable children’s products?
The availability of natural alternatives to the materials conventionally used for these products. There’s not always an obvious alternative and there’s a lot of research required to come up with the best solutions. It’s also very hard not to offend manufacturers when you try to explain that what they usually use to make those products isn’t good enough for your brand!
Do you feel pressure from your customers to be more eco?
No, we’ve never had any customers asking us to be more eco. I think at the moment we are about as eco as we can practically be, but we’re always up for hearing feedback on where we can improve.
What advice would you give to anyone hoping to launch a sustainable business?
Do it! The world needs more sustainable solutions. However, don’t be fooled by suppliers using the word ‘eco’ to trick you into using certain things. Many people try to claim that they use ‘eco’ PVC or similar, when there really isn’t any such thing as ‘eco’ PVC – it’s a very toxic plastic which is hugely damaging to the environment and human health.
Which other sustainable businesses have inspired you?
So many of them! I have good relationships with a lot of other sustainable brands and it’s inspiring to hear their stories and see their success.
What have been the main prohibitors to your progress in building a sustainable business?
Technology! So many of the things we would love to be making just aren’t possible yet! Someone needs to invent a waterproof fabric which is natural, that would be a huge help! Also costs. Doing things sustainably is usually more expensive, which adds its own challenges.
What have been your biggest milestones and triumphs until now?
Creating our unique natural fabric wadded sleeping bags was one of our greatest achievements. It took a lot of research, trial and error, sampling and safety testing! We got there in the end and they’re now our best selling item. Our fundraise at the end of last year was probably our biggest milestone so far. We were overwhelmed with the investor sentiment to our business.