If you're looking for gifts that you can really feel good about buying, this week's boutique could be the one for you. We spoke to its founder Charity Nichols to find out more about how to give green:Green Tulip's tagline is "Ethical Gifts". Can you please tell us more about the ethics of the site?
When I started Green Tulip back in 2006 I spent a long time deciding the ethical categories I was going to review my products by (and I still work to the same ethical categories today). I wanted to think laterally about what 'ethical' means and consider many different things when reviewing a product – who makes them, where they are made, what they are made from and how they are made as well as how they are packaged and how they are transported. All the products have to fall into at least one of these categories – Organic, Natural, Sustainable, Recycled, Fair Trade & British - and many fall into two or three. I try to work with small companies where possible and often get to meet the people who work directly with the producers. I prefer this to dealing with bigger suppliers, and it also means I can ask them all the questions I want!
As well as reviewing products against these ethical categories I also review them in terms of taste and style. When I started Green Tulip one of the main driving forces was to show customers that you could shop ethically and buy stylish products so I make sure everything we stock is also a great product in its own right.
People often tend to assume that ethical equals expensive. True or not true?
That's a difficult one! Obviously if a product is made from good quality materials and the people who make it are paid fairly it is going to be more expensive than a poor quality product made in less well-controlled circumstances. However that doesn't mean our products are expensive – just that they are a fair price for what they are. We have over 250 products on our website that are £5 or under and being a company focused on gifts we also make sure the majority of our products are under £30. So in short I'd say not true!
What were you doing jobwise before you set up Green Tulip and what inspired the change?
I spent the 14 years before setting up Green Tulip working for John Lewis so I really have retail in my blood! I joined their graduate training scheme and worked in the shops and as a buyer as well as in branding – I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and learnt so much. I decided to leave when my oldest child was about to start school. I was commuting into London from Guildford and the logistics were getting very complicated! We decided we wanted to move back to the beautiful South West where I had grown up and that was the prompt for me to set up on my own.
How do you go about sourcing the right products for the site?
I visit all the major trade shows including Top Drawer for gifts and Natural Products Europe for organic toiletries and gift food. There are definitely a lot more ethical brands at the mainstream shows now than there were back in 2006 which does make things easier. As well as this I get ideas from following blogs, trawling the internet and also doing a bit of shopping (purely for research purposes of course!). Finally friends and family can sometimes come up with some great product suggestions – they all know what I do so keep an eye out when they are out and about.
What are your top three current favourite Green Tulip products?
Bambu Coco Minis – £10. I love these new little coconut bowls – perfect for serving crisps and dips and they come in a great range of colours. They are made from coconut shells which would otherwise be a waste product so are definitely sustainable as well as beautiful.
Sranrom Sleep Tight Body Wash - £12. This shower gel has a permanent place in my shower as every time I use it it makes me think of a spa in Thailand (or at least what I imagine it would smell like as unfortunately I have never been!). It's packed with essential oils including White Champaca & Ylang Ylang (and doesn't contain any parabens, propylene glycol, petroleum derivatives, silicone, synthetic colours, synthetic fragrances or any animal ingredients). I always use it after playing sport in the evening and it definitely makes me feel relaxed and ready for bed.
Strawberry & Coco Mitzi Blue Chocolate Bar - £2.50. I've been looking for an exciting chocolate brand for a while and was very excited when someone gave me a bar of Zotter chocolate for Christmas. Josef Zotter is like the Willy Wonka of our time – coming up with exciting combinations using the best quality organic & fairtrade chocolate. It's so difficult to choose a favourite but as its summer I think I will go for the Strawberry and Coco Mitzi Blue bar – pretty pink chocolate which melts in the mouth and genuinely tastes like fresh strawberry with mellow after-taste of coconut.
What would you most like people to say about Green Tulip?
We get a lot of good press for our products and had a particularly nice write up in The Times Saturday Magazine in April last year. They said: "The beneficiary of an ethical gifts receives double the pleasure – a gorgeous pressie and a feeling of wellbeing about having, in some small way, helped the world become a better place. Online store Green Tulip makes the job easy with its thoughtful, well-priced collection." I think that sums it up nicely and would love to think other people feel like that too! www.greentulip.co.uk
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