Small Business, Big Changes
We know it’s contradictory to care about our impact on the environment and at the same time to live and work in the ski industry. An industry that produces a huge amount of carbon dioxide and tons of waste to allow us to enjoy the mountains, whilst at the same time destroying the environment we play in.
At The Boot Lab we regularly question ourselves and whether we’re too small to really have an impact? Our business model works. Products arrive from the big suppliers and we sell them to the customer. Through training and a passion for skiing, we’re able to supply an excellent product. And we’ve got a stellar team of boot-fitters who get as much joy from making a boot fit well as they do from skiing itself.
We could easily continue as we are and rest on our laurels. But as a small business we’re beginning to realise that we can actually make changes that will lead to big differences and to make this happen we need to take the lead.
By making several adjustments to the way our business operates we’re able to make lots of small gains resulting in bigger transformations. This has really come to the forefront in our minds this winter and we’ve realised that we really can make a difference.
What Are We Doing?
We’ve got loads of little projects on the go. We’re working towards removing as much plastic as possible from our boot-fitting process. We’re recycling, repairing, re-using, promoting eco-friendly brands, putting pressure on the suppliers to become more eco friendly and planting trees.
Plastic is used in nearly everything we sell in The Boot Lab so this is surely a bonkers idea?! True – we can’t hide behind the fact that we sell plastic, but we can try and reduce the amount of plastic we sell. The easiest way to do this is through packaging. Over the last three years we have removed 3,300 plastic bags from our products, to do this we have asked suppliers to deliver their products to us in boxes with no plastic packaging. We have done this with all our custom footbeds and Fork Tree products. This has been such an easy gain, we find that most of our plastic products come wrapped in plastic, and we struggle to see the logic in this.
Placing Pressure on Suppliers
We’re also placing pressure on the supplier. If we receive products that are overly packaged we photograph them, email the photo with a description and notify them that we’re looking for alternative brands. Ultimately we have more purchasing power so we can have more influence than the end purchaser.
Developing a new product
We feel this is possibly the biggest single change we can make as a business and something we’re putting a lot of time and effort into. Each of our ski boots is fitted with a custom made insole. These are currently made from plastic and we’re trying to replace them with an eco friendly alternative. To do this we’re working with the University of Sheffield to create a fully customisable cork version. With developments in technology it is making it possible for us to miss out the supplier and for us to become a small manufacturer. Cork is harvested in Portugal, is lightweight, anti-bacterial and compostable.
Through various side projects we’re planting trees. This winter we committed to planting a tree for each Fork Tree product sold in store.
We’re also running the event “Fix It, F@*k Brexit”, with a “Bring & Buy Rail” and a “Fix It, don’t Ditch It Workshop”.
Fix It, Don’t Ditch It
On the day local seamstress Gina will be setup in front of the store (hopefully in glorious sunshine) fixing all your clothing problems. Armed with her trusty sewing machine, spare zips, buttons and poppers, she’ll be doing her best to breathe new life into your gear. And the Boot Lab team will be on hand to repair your hardware. Got a broken buckle or binding, need a new liner to freshen up an old boot? Then we’ll be doing our best to repair it and freshen your gear up from our spares. Happy with your repair? Then leave a donation, each euro will plant a tree.
Bring & Buy Rail
Give those closets a good spring clean and drop in any unwanted ski gear before March 25th – salopettes, jackets, goggles or clothes and we’ll run a Bring & Buy Rail. If it’s broken we’ll fix it. Otherwise we’ll wash it, waterproof it and then sell it! All proceeds will be used to plant as many trees as possible. And any left over clothing will be donated to the refugees living in Annecy.
Tree Planting Collective
For each Euro raised we can plant a tree in Kenya’s Kijabe Forest, a highland mosaic ‘Afro-alpine’ forest that was once dominated by trees, such as the East African pencil-cedar and African olive. Roughly one-third of the original high-canopy forest still stands and provides important habitat for biodiversity. The forest is only about 5,000 hectares, but a community of almost 200,000 people depend on it for water, wood, and agriculture. Increasing pressure for land poses significant threats to the region, leading to the over-extraction of resources and illegal timber harvesting. Planting trees here will help protect this vital ecosystem, promote environmental education, and foster sustainable livelihoods through seed collection and ecotourism.
We’re also trying to get the local community and businesses involved. By creating a collective we hoping to encourage you on the same route. We’re looking for like-minded businesses to join us, so if you would like to get involved then please get in contact.
We’re Recycling & Repairing
Customers regularly leave their old ski boots with us whether they are worn out or they’ve been sold the wrong size. And we’re sticklers for not disposing of these in landfill. We donate those that are still usable to a local business that provides affordable ski holidays for children in the area. Those that are unusable we strip down all the parts and add them to our big draw of spares. This means that we can repair lots of ski boots keeping them out of landfill. We work on customers’ current ski boots and we have a policy in-store, if the boot is the correct size and works for the customer, we’ll make any necessary changes to their current boot rather than trying to sell them a new one.
So there you have it. We can’t change an industry overnight, but we are making steps in the right direction. And we’ve realised that we can instigate many of these changes ourselves, we don’t have to wait for someone else to lead.
If you agree with the route we’re taking, and want to get involved, we’d love to have you along for the ride. Just drop us a message with any ideas. And if you’re a local business, why not join our collective?