On Friday 16th of April Cathy from Miller & Keane joined me for one of the Friday Lunchtime Lives I'm doing over Earth Month. Meet Cathy and discover all about her business, what inspired her to take environmental action, what she's trying to do to restore our Earth (the theme of Earth Day 2021).
Who you are and what does your business do?
I'm Cathy, mum of two and owner of Miller & Keane, a British luxury natural candle & home fragrance business. It's a small, family run business born from both a love of candles and also a huge passion for high quality, sustainably sourced products to enhance our homes spaces and wellbeing.
How did you came to start an Eco business? Were you Eco as a child?
No, I really can't say I was especially eco as a child as I don't recall there being very much conversation around it to be honest. We left London just before I turned 5 and moved to my grandparents farm back in Ireland. I was surrounded by nature here, lots of land, a beautiful river, home grown potatoes, carrots and turnips. I guess now it would all be called 'organic' but for me growing up it was just normal having access to fresh home grown produce.
I've always hated seeing waste & plastic bags blowing around the place growing up, but the issue really hit home while travelling in south east Asia in 1999, seeing locals dump their rubbish into rivers and the ocean. Once while a pod of dolphins swam nearby. I found that very shocking and upsetting to be honest, seeing polystyrene, plastic and all sorts of horrible waste being poured into the ocean without a thought. When I questioned this, I was met with bemusement, as if I was some kind of mad tourist! This was something that sadly, I saw time and again, on boats in Cambodia, ferries in Malaysia. It seemed to be very much part of daily life there.
Since then, and certainly since having my children, I became increasingly concerned about how our shopping habits affect the planet that we will leave behind us for the next generations and been on a mission to learn as much as I can. I'm still learning all the time.
When I decided to set up a business, I realised quite quickly why we have the problems we do. It's hugely lucrative to simply import a finished product or candle from China or the far east. UK based companies cannot compete with the prices and as all businesses want to make a profit, it makes financial sense to do that. Sadly, it continues to create so many other ethical problems, from poor labour conditions, uncertainty about the ingredients used or quality of the product and of course the carbon footprint of shipping these products back here.
For me, it had to be local, sustainable, high quality and with as little impact to our planet as possible. There is also something really lovely about supporting local business, local jobs and our local economy. With so much business going overseas, it's very much needed.
What do you do / would you like to do more of in order to help ‘restore our earth’?
It's been a journey over the years but initially it was simply having my own cloth bags as much as possible so I didn't need to use plastic. Next was cleaning products and banning aerosols followed by looking for eco-conscious brands who used recycled packaging or non plastic. I'm far from perfect but believe that striving for perfection is often what puts people off, so just making constant changes as I learn and sharing with those around me is how I feel I can do my bit.
It's the little things like not using wet wipes, eating meat once or twice a week, shopping for fruit and veg in markets to avoid the plastic covered packs they come in in supermarkets. Nappies were a big one and living in South Africa, I used cloth nappies for both my boys 90% of the time, because they were so easy to dry there!
When the boys were little, they received so many gifts for birthdays of rigid plastic toys needing lots of batteries but my preference was the solid wood ones, which I've kept for grandchildren. I also always hated the party packs at the kids parties so instead of giving out a bulging bag filled with plastic bits that ended up in the rubbish bins, I usually gave a book and extra treats instead. That whole culture of children receiving these party bags filled with unnecessary waste really frustrated me a lot. What happened to a slice of cake and the party being enough of a gift? For us growing up, only the birthday girl/ boy received a gift! It seems to be consumerism gone mad!
What made you take action?
I think being a mom has really been a huge driver too. Knowing that my children are going to inherit the repercussions of how we live today scares me to be honest. It's only through mass change that we can make a difference but I genuinely believe that profit cannot come over our planet. Any business setting up in this time of climate crisis, really needs to have a planet centred approach. There is so much greenwashing going on, it's hard for consumers to know what to believe, but core ethics and values should really include this.
Above I've chatted about what I do personally but as a business there are many aspects and while I've done as much as possible as an eco-conscious brand, I'm always looking at ways to improve.
Our candles are
🌱 made using 100% pure plant wax (soy wax)
🌱all made locally, here in England
🌱use sustainably sourced ingredients
🌱 use renewable ingredients (no paraffin wax)
Our packaging is
🌱 plastic free
🌱 made from fsc approved cardboard
🌱 made by local suppliers
🌱 made using non-toxic inks
🌱 free from laminates,
🌱 We also plant trees 🌳 and partnered with One Tree Planted to plant a tree for every order we receive.
🌱 In addition we are partnered with a beautiful charity called Orphans Know More (www.OrphansKnowMore.com) that helps orphans and families in Uganda - who are most in need.
More importantly, I feel it's important to help spread awareness, sharing easy ways we can all make a difference together. There are so many wonderful eco-conscious brands out there and I love partnering and collaborating with businesses like yours, Seven Shades , Naturally Tribal etc. who all genuinely care about running a business that doesn't harm the planet as well.
What’s your tip to feel less overwhelmed, but take more action?
That's a hard one for me as I'm a total empath and think I've become even more so since having my boys! I'm very aware that our actions today determine the kind of planet they will have to enjoy tomorrow so I'm always looking at ways to improve.
Eco-anxiety is real for many people, but becoming overwhelmed doesn't help the problem as it can make people think 'why bother' or 'what difference does it make'. So I recommend watching these programmes that highlight what is going on such as Seaspiracy, Kiss The Ground, A Plastic Ocean etc ... there are so many wonderful documentaries that shed light on the situation but know that any positive changes you make WILL make a difference.
We can't fix it overnight, but together, by continually improving and using our purchasing power as consumers .... we can hopefully help change it together.
If you would like to watch our Live on replay, head to the saved IGTV.
I hope you have enjoyed learning about Cathy and Miller & Keane and hearing about her eco journey and eco tips as much as I did.
As always, any questions, please just shout.
With love from our family to yours,
Stay safe and keep well,