Are you and sustainability going steady?
Or does it make you feel guilty, frustrated or massively behind?
Buyers of all kinds want to know where sellers stand on issues of environmental impact, diversity and inclusion.
So where are you with this stuff?
Are you pleased with your progress in making your packaging sustainable but know there’s a lot more to do?
Or does this whole subject just make you feel bad because you don’t even know where to start reducing the environmental impact of your business?
I asked the makers in my Sell Like An Artist community this question – here’s what they told me.
This came up for me a few years ago when I was talking to an Australian distributor about possibly working with them. They were looking to work with sustainable brands so this led me to explore the issue for my business.
I asked my peers for their wisdom and had conversations with my silversmith and packaging suppliers. The only area that I really couldn’t satisfy the requirements was boxes for my jewellery so we ended up using cards and cotton pouches.
It was a very enlightening and useful experience and as a result I designed a new range of jewellery that I decorate with recycled glass.
I’m working on it. I try to do as low-packaging as is safe, and I’ve been getting quotes for custom-made envelopes from recycled zero-carbon paper to replace organza bags. I’ve also found fully recycled double satin ribbon, which I’m really pleased about.
I studied circular sustainability and found it fascinating. On the whole my business has a very small footprint, partly because as a micro business it’s tied to my own personal footprint. (I don’t drive, have a small living space, green electricity, no children, I recycle and so on.)
The only thing I can’t get away from is using plastics in my work and fuel for postage. I sell direct to individual customers primarily online, so their items have no choice but to go airmail. And my paintings are acrylics – so they are plastics.
I balance that with my intention that the work is made and meant to last 100+ years. I’m currently unable to accommodate the circular lifecycle, where customers could return items to me for reuse of materials. There’s simply no reasonable way to do that yet.
We’ve worked very hard on this. I’d actually say we’ve reduced our footprint as far as possible and interrogated our supply chain as far as we can. What’s left is the nuanced arguments in candle making between a manufactured synthetic fragrance oil and finding a sustainable natural alternative, when it takes 90-100 years for the tree to reach maturity. Add in the habitat damage and it becomes a thorny problem to quantify.
My focus is social sustainability. I also do the usual eco-friendly stuff but it doesn’t get me fired up like I get when someone says “hand-harvested by a co-operative of small-holder farmers in a developing nation”. I’m only small so I don’t have much buying power but I’m trying to spend my money where it makes a difference.
I’ve been plastic free from day one. That said I think there is always more to learn about treating our planet with a bit more respect. You know the saying ‘when you know better you do better’. And it’s a constant learning curve.
I make to order, my packaging is eco-friendly and recyclable, with some of it compostable. My swimsuits are printed with eco-friendly inks which are directly transferred onto the fabric so not to transfer nasty chemicals into outer water systems. The fashion industry is the second largest worlds polluter of our oceans, lakes and sea. I’d ideally like to design a range with recyled plastic fabric.
As these comments show, making your business sustainable is an ongoing process, and the best time to start is right now.
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