Cotton Lily

Rose Boardman

There has never been a more important time to become more aware of how we are affecting the planet. Whether you’re just starting to explore eco-friendly living or you’re already an eco-warrior, choosing to consume from ethical, small, sustainable, and eco-friendly companies is something we can all do to really make a difference. We sat down with Katie Wales, the designer and maker behind a one-woman business, Cotton Lily, based in Sandy, Bedfordshire. Cotton Lily offers beautiful and unique handmade, organic reusable alternatives to help people lead a plastic-free/zero waste life.


Hey Katie, tell us about Cotton Lily - what inspired you to start making eco-friendly alternatives? 

Katie & Lily. Photo: Katie Wales

Katie & Lily. Photo: Katie Wales

My journey started last summer after watching ‘Blue Planet 2’ and ‘Drowning in Plastic’ where both David Attenborough and Liz Bonnin broadcast the hard truth of how our plastic consumption is massively affecting the oceans. I decided to explore the plastic pollution problem a little further and discovered the ‘Plastic Free July’ challenge, of which I accepted and actually found it relatively easy to follow. However, I noticed that there were some gaps in the market. 

Having graduated from a textiles degree 13 years ago I decided to put my skills to work and made myself my own reusable face pads so I could stop using throw away wipes, and reusable produce bags so I didn’t have to use plastic bags you see in the supermarkets. My girlfriends became particularly interested in the face pads and I gave some away as gifts and they loved them! They said not only were they eco-friendly, but they were also amazing at removing their makeup and exfoliating at the same time.

Reusable cotton pads. Photo: Katie Wales

Reusable cotton pads. Photo: Katie Wales

Last October I decided to set up my own business and named it after the material that the majority of my products would be made from and my fur baby, Lily the Pomeranian. Since October I have added a number of handmade reusable alternatives to my range, from beeswax wraps to replace cling film, to reusable tea bags to replace teabags that contain a plastic sealant.

Reusable tea bags, featuring Cotton Lily’s name sake. Photo: Katie Wales

Reusable tea bags, featuring Cotton Lily’s name sake. Photo: Katie Wales

Where do you get the inspiration for your designs?   

My inspiration comes from my own day-to-day discoveries. It was only recently that I learned that the sealant used on tea bags contains plastic so I decided to make a plastic-free alternative in the form of a reusable tea bag.  I’ve always been a creative person.  I like to make my products beautiful as well as practical and eco-friendly.

Why should the public choose eco-friendly options?

We only have one Earth and we are the ones that will determine its future. From coastlines to woodlands, plastic pollution is all around us. Plastics are not biodegradable and therefore don’t just go away. By choosing eco-friendly products you are making a difference and taking action to help tackle the damage we have done. By making small changes we can help ensure that the children of the future are able to experience and enjoy the wildlife that we see today. If we don’t act now, we will lose some of our wonderful creatures.

What has been your biggest seller? Do you have any new product launches happening?  

From all the products I have added to my range, my biggest sellers still remain to be the first two products I launched on my website; the reusable face pads and the soap savers, closely followed by the reusable produce bags.

I’m coming up with new ideas all the time. My most recent product launch was “Lilia” my handmade macrame plant hanger that was in celebration of Cotton Lily’s birthday. Indoor plants are really popular at the moment, providing amazing air-purifying properties, therefore plant hangers are a must! I also recently turned my shed into my very own Cotton Lily studio; I’m so excited to have a creative space of my own and can't wait to start creating more products.

Cotton Lily products. Photos: Katie Wales

What advice would you give to people who want to start their own plastic free company? 

Go for it!! If you feel passionate about saving our oceans and planet any idea can help make a difference. 

Lastly, what do you hope the future will bring for our oceans? 

I really hope we can start to reverse the damage we’ve caused. Over time I believe that this will happen as more people are becoming more educated and aware of the problem. I’m watching ‘Blue Planet live’ at the moment and there are so many clever people out there coming up with new ideas of how we can save our oceans. Something I really hope is a big success is the revival of coral reefs, the backbone of the ocean's ecosystem.

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If you want to find out more or get your hands on some of her amazing products check out her website and follow her here @cotton_lily


Blue Missions showcases the work of marine organisations dedicated to protecting our oceans