This month we’re shining our sustainability spotlight on Devonia. We asked founder, Neil Graham, to tell us about what he is doing to ensure his family business is sustainable.
Devonia is a family business, run by Neil Graham, supplying still and sparkling spring water from an ancient spring near Beeson in the South Hams. They supply hotels, cafes, restaurants, weddings and private events across Devon.
What makes Devonia unique is that they reuse their glass bottles time and again. Their bottles are collected from their customers at the same time as delivering new, then carefully washed and reused to ensure their impact on the environment is as low as possible. So far, they’ve reused 2.2 million bottles since they began trading and saved nearly 300,000 kilograms of glass from going into a landfill, the equivalent of two dozen double-decker London buses.
What have you done to make your business more environmentally friendly?
At Devonia we’ve put sustainability at the heart of everything we do, and we’ve been at the forefront of pushing back the wasteful use of glass bottles for over 20 years. Recycling glass bottles isn’t the best way to help the environment, reusing them is. We have a free resource right on our doorstep, which otherwise would go to landfill or travel hundreds of miles to be recycled. With over 130 tons of glass saved from landfill, we can proudly say we have also saved 19500kg of CO2 from the atmosphere. Last year alone we reused 211,644 bottles saving the energy required to recycle nearly 11,560 kilos of glass and had a staggering bottle return rate from customers of 82 percent.
Over the years we have also installed a new washing system which uses less energy as well as switching to using only renewable energy and never leave machines or lights running when we are not there. Our flexible bottle delivery and collection routes also mean we don’t travel excess mileage between customers.
What would you like to change in the future to improve your sustainability credentials further?
Our current bottle return rate from customers is 82 percent, we’d love to keep increasing this, through constantly educating customers about the importance of reusing rather than recycling and growing our customer base. We use 94% less energy by washing bottles rather than buying new every time. To wash a bottle it uses 0.025Kwh, in contrast, it takes a much larger 0.413Kwh to melt down and create a new glass bottle. Hence the importance of reuse, rather than recycle. The more customers we have, the more bottles we are saving from landfill.
We’d also like to install solar panels, switch to electric vans once available and upgrade our washing machinery to even more energy efficient models which recover most input energy.
What tips do you have for other businesses that would like to become more sustainable?
You can’t tackle the whole environmental problem, but it is important to do your bit, both as an individual and a business. It’s always worth talking to other similar businesses and seeing what they do, most people love to offer advice. A great starting point is also looking at your energy efficiency, can you do anything to improve it? Multiple small improvements in a business can all add up to make a big difference and can also help make the business savings, for example, educating your staff – are lights left on, cookers burning all day unused, windows left open with heating on and so on. Also, think about buying locally, why buy something that may have travelled thousands of miles but be a bit cheaper. Instead, support your own local and sustainable businesses, such as Devonia.