It’s impossible to live and work somewhere as beautiful as Waternish and not feel responsible for doing your bit to take care of the environment around you. Skyeskyns is rooted in the island landscape of Skye and our Waternish croft. The original inspiration for setting up the business came from a desire to make use of the lamb skins that were being wasted locally in the 80s. Thirty-nine years later, we’re still making use of this farming waste-product and transforming it into beautiful handcrafted, hand-finished and durable products. We are proud to uphold an age-old craft and to share it with younger generations and visitors to the tannery every day. We source our skins from our nearest abattoir, Inverness, keeping transport miles to a minimum and ensuring that all the animal is being used, preventing skins from being exported overseas and ensuring that the money stays in the local economy.
Of course, what began as a small crofting diversification project has grown into something much bigger but our ethos of looking after the land and its resources, "treading lightly" as we go, defines our journey and choices. For instance:
- In 2019 after successful trials, we moved away from using an extractive and finite mineral resource for tanning to using mimosa bark. Mimosa bark is sustainably harvested and now all our effluent can be treated onsite, composted and spread back onto the croft.
- Our production is set up to recycle as much mimosa as we can.
- In 2022 we installed reed beds to help clean up the natural effluents from our tanning bath.
- In early Spring 2022, we have planted 600 trees thanks to donations and match-funding from our last two Black Friday sales. This is the beginning of our woodland project on the croft beside the tannery so that our process comes full circle- TREE-WOOL-TREE.
- We continue to use skins from our local abattoir.
- We are carefully sourcing from other sheep breeders, ensuring nothing goes to waste.
- We use Green electricity suppliers in both business locations.
- We use offcuts from sheepskins to turn into other products, fill our cushions or simply insulate our building.
- We offer a private tan service so that small producers locally can complete their own circles of production.
- We recycle at every opportunity: this includes recycling good quality cardboard boxes from suppliers and using them to parcel up customer orders; minimising printing; re-using scrap paper and wrappings in the office and post room.
- In 2018 we moved to using biodegrable plastic bags (which have a very low environmental footprint) to pack fleeces for dispatch.
- We use brown paper tape for parcels, not plastic tape.
- Our beanbag beads and postal bags are biodegrable and we use sheepskin offcuts to fill our cushions.
- We now have an electric car charging point just outside the tannery in Waternish, with an electric van for moving stock to our store in Portree.
- Our pop-up café, YURTEA&Coffee and Portree shop use compostable take away cups and source baking, coffee and food as close to home as possible.
Our approach to sustainability extends to how we choose clothing, accessories and other suppliers based in the UK and in Europe, usually small to medium-sized businesses who share our ethos and our approach to quality, sustainability and craftmanship. We look carefully at the supply chain: where skins comes from, where the wool for jumpers is sourced, where and how leather is tanned. We pride ourselves in selecting excellent products according to exacting standards. We believe in a slow fashion approach, selling beautiful clothing made with care and which can be worn for years, staying stylish without giving up on sustainability.
We are a growing local business, putting money back into Skye and Scottish suppliers where we can, and are proud to support sustainable employment on Skye and offering flexible working patterns.
We’re conscious that being an environmentally mindful business is a process so we’d love to hear from you if you have any ideas on how we can continue to improve on what we’re doing!