This week we are featuring the wonderful Alison Wakeman. Many of you may have come across her during one of her educational talks or during a food or craft fair, or you may be familiar with her beeswax food wraps that are sold through numerous zero waste shops in Shropshire.

As with many small businesses 2020 has been an extremely tough year for Alison with no face to face talks or stands available. She has continued to supply her items online for sale and in a number of shops that have managed to stay open, but we miss seeing her around at the county events. So we thought we would introduce her to those of you who may not have had the pleasure yet.

In January 2015 Alison created ‘Alison’s Bee Class’, an educational business delivering a self-written programme entitled “Awareness of Bees and their Importance in the Environment”.  Whilst it was originally directed towards educating primary school children in Shropshire, following the national curriculum for Science, it soon became apparent whilst attending community events that there was also a need to expand the business to include training adults to become beekeepers as well as informing numerous community groups about the importance of bees, so she began to offer Guest Speaker work.

Since walking into that first classroom in 2015, Alison has engaged with around 8,000 people. Inspiring many to either become beekeepers or commence bee-inspired projects within their place of work/learning or home.

In 2018 she won the Businesses for Children Award ‘Best Educational Business for Children’

Bees, bees everywhere!!

Whilst Alison keeps a couple of hives at her home in south Telford, most of her hives are kept further afield at locations including National Trust Dudmaston, Hortonwood and Telford & Wrekin’s Solar Farm at Wheat Leasowes.

She has also helped Telford Town Park install and manage their first hive and be awarded DEFRA’s ‘Bees’ Needs 2019′ National Award.

Alison with one of her hives at Shropshires solar farm (Image: Shropshire Star)
Sustainable Hive Products – more to bees than honey!

Having 20 colonies of bees, part of good hive management means there is a large amount of beeswax harvested each season.

Frustrated by the amount of clingfilm and sandwich bags used at home, Alison decided to develop her own products after reading an article about Beeswax food wraps that were popular in Australia and New Zealand.

After lots of trials she vouches that the simplest method is the best. 100% cotton fabric and pure beeswax. Once she was happy with the product (and trialled it on many of her friends!) she started marketing in April 2018.

Just a few of the designs for Alisons beeswax food wraps (Image: Alisons Bee Class)

Naturally anti-bacterial and perfect for wrapping or covering numerous foods they are a perfect alternative to clingfilm in the home. If cared for correctly, they should last up to 18 months. Once past their best they can be composted too as they are 100% biodegradable.

Although sales were slow to start as most people did not understand the product, with the help of demonstrations at events, the wraps started to gain popularity. Almost 3 years on she has sold 1,000s of wraps via events, online and through retail shops. A great diversification utilising a waste product from the hives.

Alison tells us that her beeswax food wraps not only save a huge amount of single use plastic waste, but they can help save money.

“In terms of cost savings for the average family of 2 adults and 3 children taking a packed lunch to work/school 45 weeks per year currently using plastic clingfilm/single use snack bags as wrapping.  Currently they would be using approximately 600m of clingfilm.  This does not take into account clingfilm used in other kitchen activities throughout the year.

In terms of environmental impact, clingfilm is made from low-density polyethylene which does not biodegrade and studies show, can be harmful to our health.  Recent studies are also now showing the amount of harmful plastics making it into the food-chain and oceans is alarming.  So any change to reducing plastic use with reusable/biodegradable products is a win-win not only for the pocket, but for the planet.

I have observed that people’s attitude and buying behaviour has changed away from single-use wrapping to reusable & in particular love my unique patterns to ‘pimp up’ their fridge/lunch!”

Public awareness of reusable products is key. At Guest Speaker jobs Alison had a captive audience, throughout the pandemic this has been much harder. She has had to rely on social media and producing wraps that are bright, bold and beautiful. Capturing the attention of someone scrolling through their daily updates.

Alison believes that general public awareness of reusable products has definitely increased in recent years. Her products are also handcrafted using their own beeswax, so any purchase directly supports a self-sufficient small local business. She has also created additional products including beeswax candles, cotton face masks and reusable cloth wipes to help support the business during tough times.

Expanding product range has secured the future for Alisons award winning educational classes (Image: Alisons Bee Class)

Sustainability isn’t just about the product.

“I believe my entire project goes above and beyond standard sustainability practice, from educating primary aged children about the awareness of bees and their importance in the environment through to adults in the various information activities I perform.

My product diversification is also making good use of a hive product into a totally sustainable item following zero waste practices, where possible in the manufacturing process (all scrappage is composted at home, heat required to melt wax sourced from woodburner, when lit, wax from spent combs is rendered down in a solar extractor – homemade box using recycled materials which uses the power from the sun to heat/melt down the beeswax from old beehive frames)

I have also forged relationships with many, local independent businesses who stock my beeswax wraps in their shops.  Those include Battlefield1403, Ludlow Farm Shop, Hawkstone Park Follies, Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre, Apley Farm Shop, Green Fields, The Fields Kitchen, Antiques & Arts Ironbridge, Churncote Farm Shop, Box of Goodness Newport.   In addition to these larger businesses, I also supply some of the new Zero-Waste Sustainable living businesses too.”

In 2019 Alison won the best ‘Environmental Product Award’ from BESST Sustainable Business in Telford.

Life after Covid-19

Thankfully with honeybees being classified as ‘livestock’ she has always been able to visit and manage their colonies throughout the lockdowns. 

Whilst their educational, training & event work is currently on-hold, she is hoping that one day soon this is possible again as she believes that making people of all ages aware about the importance of bees and other pollinating insects is paramount to the survival of the planet as well as encouraging sustainability.

“In the meantime, the bees will still buzz, the flowers will get pollinated and nature will continue to survive.  We just need to be kinder to our planet & all the wonderful flora & fauna around us.”

Good luck to Alison. We hope to see her at events in the not too distant future. In the meanwhile, please check out her beeswax food wraps on her social media pages. We can vouch from experience here at Mossy Life that they are a fantastic product to have in your own home and they also make a beautiful zero waste gift. Beautifully made and great value for money too!

Links to Alison’s Bee Class social media accounts are all in the Directory. Please head over and give them a like!

#supportlocal #shropshirebusiness #ecobusiness #reusableproducts #veganfriendly #saynotosingleuse

Alison tending a hive surrounded in bee friendly flowers (Image: Alisons Bee Class)
Caroline Talbot
Author: Caroline Talbot