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Ahead of the curve: Earth

Coinciding with Earth Week, the second blog in our Ahead of the Curve campaign focuses on the element: Earth.
Ahead of the curve campaign

In this Earth-focused edition of our #AheadOfTheCurve series we'll be discussing the sustainable processes and policies we've adopted across our teams. As we are on a journey to become the most ecological business we can, we'll also be openly sharing the ways in which we are striving to improve.

'We are at a unique stage in our history. Never before have we had such an awareness of what we are doing to the planet, and never before have we had the power to do something about that'

- Sir David Attenborough.
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Inside the Tom Raffield workshops where each process is carefully considered for production and the planet.

Less is more

No production line, no mass production - just a team of passionate woodworkers doing what they do best: making. We run our lighting and furniture workshops using ecological, hands-on processes to ensure that we create minimal levels of waste.  

Drawing on techniques that are altogether friendlier towards the environment, we manage our waste by only making what we need, when we need it. It’s our drive to control over-consumption and avoid producing surplus stock that means we handcraft all our products to order within set lead times. Because we don’t use heavy machinery or allow busy production lines to dictate our time, we control the quality and quantity of the furniture and lighting we make with utmost care using manpower.

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Hands on: girl-power in our furniture workshop steam bending a Kern Pendant.
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Our pioneering, ecological steam bending method produces little wastage. 

Furthermore, as touched on in the Water edition of our #AheadOfTheCurve campaign, the method of steam bending itself (the primary method we use to produce our product ranges) is both sustainable and eco-friendly.

Our steamers are small and use little energy, any bi-product from the steaming process (water droplets left in the tube) collect in the steamer and are re-used the next time it's fired up.

team work in the workshop
With little reliance on machinery to do the job for them, our workshop team value working and learning together in union.

Keep it local

Over the last few years we’ve really taken our time reviewing our supply chain network and being selective over who we work with and why. We strive to build relationships with like-minded businesses who share our sustainable ethos and outlook.

Where we can, we opt to work with local suppliers, small businesses and craftspeople to support our local, Cornish economy. In doing so, we reduce the mileage our components and parts travel before they reach our workshops and consequently, the packaging they are sent in.

When working with local companies is not a feasible option we research suppliers who meet our high quality standards, care about the environment and are doing their bit to reduce their carbon footprint.

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An order ready for dispatch carefully wrapped and packed by hand in our sustainably sourced, plastic free packaging. 

Considered consumption

We are proud that our own packaging is plastic free and has been since our inception. We use FSC rated cardboard, recycled paper tags and envelopes, string, brown tape and the literature sent with products is packed in recycled envelopes.

We are currently in conversation with the large retailers we work with to find a way to avoid wrapping our pallet deliveries in the plastic shrink wrapping they require in their warehouses. We feel strongly that all businesses, big or small, should be doing their part to stop using unnecessary plastic where possible and will continue to have the difficult conversations required to pioneer a new way of thinking and working that's best for the planet.

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Tom Raffield lookbooks packaged in recycled envelopes ahead of being packed.
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Handcrafted, hand packed and hand delivered. We make decisions based on what's best for people and the planet.

Elsewhere on the Tom Raffield site we have a plastic water bottle ban and any food packaging, plastic or not, brought in by our team is recycled into bins, reused or re-purposed. This spring there’s been a spell of plastic trays being taken home for germinating fruit seeds - we love nifty ways to re-use things (there’s currently a window full of jam jars in our office filled with shooting avocado stones!)

Most of our team are great cooks and bring a homemade lunch to work every day in re-used boxes, which helps to reduce our overall waste levels...it’s the small lifestyle changes that make a big difference in the long run.

Where we’d like to be:

  • Although we request all our deliveries on site to be sent to us with minimal packaging, sometimes it is unfortunately unavoidable. We’d like to partner exclusively with businesses that operate a plastic-free ethos.
  • Beyond our workshop, we’re working closely with colleges and universities in Cornwall to nurture talent and keep it local. Investing in apprenticeships and internships, we’re building a new generation of skilled designers and craftspeople who share our ethos and are committed to doing things well. In the near future we are working towards being able to offer more positions across the business to support and educate others.
  • Already very conscious of our energy output and monitoring our daily and monthly usage, we’d eventually like to run our business via solar energy and not rely on electric lighting or heating.
  • Working with charities to halt deforestation and climate change.
  • Reducing our carbon footprint by offering our staff car sharing, walk and cycle to work incentive, as well as joining carbon offsetting programmes.
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