In Conversation With

Regenerative drinks by sapling

by Natalie Smith

Ed Faulker is the co-founder of Sapling, a sustainable spirit brand that offers premium Gin and Vodka in an ethical way. The spirits are naturally distilled here in the UK, in Gloucestershire, then packaged and shipped from France. Faulkner has not only created a brand that allows one to enjoy their favourite drinks free from guilt, but he’s also done pioneering work in the sustainability of the drinks market. Naru Studios, founded by Natalie Smith, is a luxury bag brand that is also building new structures for fashion and business in this new world of sustainability. Natalie speaks to Ed about what sustainability means to them, and how they’re brands overlap in some aspects of their mission for sustainability.

How did the idea for Sapling come about? 

We started Sapling to lead the way with sustainability in the drinks industry. My business partner and I set up a small music festival in Scotland with the goal of getting more people involved with the tree planting - it was much easier to get people involved in planting projects when there was promise of music and cocktails alongside it! There were no sustainable spirits available to supply the bar with, so we started planting a tree for every bottle of spirits. The idea became a big talking point of the festival so we wanted to give people all over the county (and the world!) the opportunity to plant trees while doing what they loved to do. 

How many trees has Sapling planted so far?  

We’ve just planted our 100,000th! Very exciting times. As well as the number of trees, its important to note that the right trees get planted in the right places. We have our own planting projects that include the UK’s first hotel forest garden, numerous urban orchards, and a native woodland next to where we first started the festival!

In your opinion, does sustainability increase or hinder the creativity of rising brands? 

I think having sustainability at the core of all of your decisions means you have to be more creative. As a brand these days you have to excite your customers and keep things fun, while also remaining authentic with your operations and messaging. It requires creativity to strike this balance. From an operational perspective, it requires much creativity to find new ways of decarbonising instead of just making decisions based on price. 

We source our leathers for Naru’s bags from regenerative and organic farms and we love that Sapling uses regenerative farming too – are you seeing a trend in the UK for more regenerative farming?

I’d actually say that there is still a great deal more education (and clarification) that needs to happen around regenerative farming. Amongst consumers, there is very little knowledge of what regenerative farming is, which in turn means that many brands won’t invest in more expensive materials and ingredients if it doesn’t win them more favour with customers. Since the customer demand isn’t really there yet for regenerative farming for mainstream produce, we are going to have to rely on the government to subsidise responsible farming methods in the short term. This will make themcheaper and more accessible to companies who make decisions based on pricing.

Which innovative idea are you most proud of at Sapling?

It has got to be our refill scheme and our mission to eliminate glass waste. It’s been incredibly simple but very affective! We were the first spirit refill scheme listedwithin national wholesale and it now makes up around 80% of our total volume. Bars only need to buy a couple of bottles and then they can refill using our eco pouches. We have recently worked with consultants from ClimatePartner to work out that our refills create a 25% CO2 reduction per 70cl. 

We here at Naru offer a rental platform, Sapling offers a refill service – do you think that these kind of circular initiatives will become as widespread across the F&B industries as they are becoming in fashion?

I think they have to be. F&B packaging is such a big contributor to both pollution and CO2 emissions. Refilling glass or plastic containers is a no brainer and major grocers need to do better to incorporate it into their offering. The way to do this is to incentivise people to use the schemes - it has to be cheaper! Plastic bag use dropped by 95% when the tax was introduced, this needs to happen with unnecessary packaging as well. We know it works!

Buy from shops and brands that are transparent with their impact and don’t just do something token when it comes to sustainability.

What is one piece of advice you would give a customer who wants to become more ethical or sustainable in their everyday life?

Buy from shops and brands that are transparent with their impact and don’t just do something token when it comes to sustainability. Research them properly and make sure that the company has these values at their core.

Any exciting plans on the horizon for Sapling?

We are launching some zero waste fruit vodkas using whats called ‘destructive samples’. When a pallet of fruit gets delivered a number of fruits get stabbed with a pressure gun to measure their ripeness before being stored. The fruits that have nothing wrong with them are then unsellable and discarded. We are using these fruits to flavour our spirits and help reduce fruit waste.

What keeps you hopeful?

It keeps me hopeful that every year more and more people are getting involved in sustainability movements all over the world. I think this is largely down to a much more conscientious younger generation getting older and telling us how its done!

What’s your favourite Sapling recipe!?

Dry vodka martini with a lemon twist - 50ml Sapling Climate Positive Vodka, 25ml White Vermouth, Stirred, Lemon Twist as a garnish. Unreal!

Discover Sapling's delicious drinks here.

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