This month is all about living eco, so I’ve been trying to improve things at the park – recycling packaging, making eco friendly products and always thinking about sustainability and green options. I’ve tried to do this as much as possible from the beginning of launching the park last year, but to get things off the ground, I had to make a few compromises. I always promised myself that I’d revisit certain bits of packaging or production methods once things were in motion, so thats what I’m working on this month. Here’s how I’m getting on…
Eco friendly packaging
Most packaging is necessary – the products need to be protected and they also need to look nice and exciting when they arrive, although see below for my feelings on cellophane! I’ve recently started packaging my jewellery in organic cotton bags, which is not only an eco-friendly material but the bag can also be repurposed once the jewellery has reached the customer.
All my orders come with small stickers on the postal bag/envelope and a postcard inside – these are two things I considered ditching as they are *technically* not essential, but branding is still important, and the postcards in particular are key for sharing information about endangered animals, which is one of my main goals. So I kept both. My postal packaging may be something I can improve on – I need to research if there are recycled options for A4 Do Not Bend envelopes, and also the jiffy bags which I know are terrible (the amount of these things I put in the bin on a semi regular basis) as you can’t recycle them. Research needed, I will try to improve!
Recycling as much as I can
I recycle as much of my waste as possible, which is usually paper. I reuse scraps of paper to make endless lists, and only when I’ve used every inch of blank space (and even then I use it as a covering when painting or making a mess) do I put it in the recycling bin. I keep meaning to try this tutorial to turn my old scraps of paper into new paper, but haven’t got round to it yet! I also reuse as much packaging as I can, especially things like bubble wrap and cardboard boxes (which often double up as temporary cat toys!).
I try not to make too much of any item before I know if it will sell to avoid waste – although the Brighton Etsy Team Samples and Seconds sale we did in February was a great way to clear out the studio! I don’t send paper invoices or receipts out with orders – everyone is used to online accounts these days, and each customer gets multiple confirmation emails, as well as payment confirmation from Paypal, so I see no need at all to print out more stuff.
Sustainability – the dreaded cellophane!
I sell prints and cards and other paper goods, a lot of the time they need to be wrapped in a waterproof package to keep them from getting damaged in transit. Plus a lot of the time prints will stay in their cellophane and be stood on a bookcase or desk rather than hung in a frame. I believe there is still a need for this packaging, so I’ve been investigating biodegradable options – they are out there but can be tricky to get hold of in the right sizes…. Cellophane on cards does my head in though – I guess the reality of retail is that when sold in shops they do need to be in cellophane (but do they, really? All I do is buy it and immediately bin the cellophane…) but online its not necessary at all, it gets shipped in its mailing envelope and then the customer writes in the card and puts it in its envelope. Done! So all my (NEW! COMING SOON!) greetings card come as default without the cellophane, and for a small extra charge you can add it on.
My carbon footprint – buying supplies locally
I love my local printers. They’re a 3 minute walk from my house, all know me by now (cos of all the annoying print requests I ask them to do). I can walk in first thing in the morning with an idea and a sample file on a USB stick, look at different card stocks (they’ve started buying in specific recycled card for me now, hurrah!), get a sample printed onto the card, go home, tweak the files and mull it over for a bit, then email over amended files, and go pick up my printing in a day or two. I know exactly what I’m going to get back from them, no nightmare print surprises, a human-human interaction, plus zero carbon footprint on delivery (just my footprints on the pavement). So thats how I make my cards and my Spotter Jotter (plus any other bits of printing) – the envelopes for the cards come from a company who randomly are really near where my mum lives so occasionally I ask her to pop in and pick up my delivery, and give it to me next time I see her.
My jewellery is pretty local too – all the laser cut wood is done by a fellow maker who works for a company in Brighton, and I make sure I plan ahead so he can hand deliver my order at an Etsy meetup or similar. My metal jewellery is also made by a friend in Brighton, who I collect from when I’m in town. My badges are not yet made local – longer term I’d ideally like to buy a badge making machine thingy and make my own (thats always the best way to do things!) but right now it doesn’t make financial sense. My main carbon footprint supplies are all the ‘findings’ for my jewellery – I use Brighton-based BeadsUnlimited but I don’t know where they get their supplies from, I’m assuming China. I used to be able to pick up my findings from their store in the North Laines but this has now shut down (SOB) so I have to get it posted, another mini fail for being eco.
Using sustainable and green resources
I print as much as I can on 100% recycled paper/card – I use the brand Evolution as all their paper is made from recycled post-consumer waste, using low CO2 production methods and no bleach or chlorine. They also work with the Woodland Trust to calculate CO2 emissions used in transportation, and plant or conserve the equivalent area of woodland in the UK. AMAZING!
I use this for my cards and Spotter Jotter notebook; my prints are printed onto FSC-approved sustainably sourced gesso paper (not yet recycled paper, more research needed). My wooden jewellery is made from sustainably sourced birch wood. The paints I use for all my jewellery are water-based acrylic paint, so no nasty chemicals for you to wear on your skin, me to breathe in while I’m painting, or that will get washed down my sink.
All the companies I work with are decent people, and using local companies or people as much as possible means my money is going back into the local economy, which is great.
And ultimately I try to make things that people want to keep and that will last a long time. Quality products, made well and with love, over short-lived, mass produced products is definitely the way to be more eco-friendly.
So definitely some room for improvement, but thinking about each thing at every stage is all it takes – sometimes taking the eco option can be more expensive (recycled paper and card certainly is) but with a bit of research, there is usually a way for it to work. Would love to hear how you try to be eco-friendly in your business, please do share any tips or ideas below!