Being sustainable isn't about following a trend or performative actions.
It's about realising the ecosystems and careful balance we all rely upon to survive is on the cusp of destruction.
And the truth that has often been left out of the sustainability conversation is ethical labour, and just how little there is of it in our modern systems.
No physical object is worth more than a person's life and as a person and a business, I never want someone else to suffer and pay the cost for my gain.
Wherever possible, I seek to reclaim materials that already exist rather than using untraceable labour and resources to create new materials.
I reclaim some of my brass from electronic plugs and housewares found at charity shops and Habitat for Humanity Restores. I also purchase industry offcuts. They would be recycled (melted and reformed) anyway, but this way, they are being used without the additional energy output.
I do however, purchase some wire in from various sources and I cannot trace their origins or how ethically they were made in most cases. This is something I feel I need to continue to challenge and improve.
I am also beginning to use eco-silver which is 100% recycled silver. I order this in from Cooks on Gold and it comes with a certificate of traceability. But, in reality, no one is ever throwing away precious metals and this isn't a silver bullet of sustainability (pun intended).
My goal is to find more sources of brass and silver already in existence (people's broken jewellery, damaged cutlery or ornaments, etc) and smelt and forge them into my own sheet and wire.
This process is extremely labour intensive, requires very expensive equipment I cannot yet afford to invest in, and will require refining some techincial skills. So it isn't something I can immediately do, but it is a goal of mine.
I purchase materials and products I use in my other products, such as cards, notebooks, and pins from other sustainably-minded businesses as close to me as possible. For instance, Klee Paper in Dublin or Zap Creatives in England.
Plastic-free, obvs. But also, my goal is to never burden a customer with unnecessary packaging or leave them wondering how to responsibly recycle any of it.
Therefore, by default I minimally package all of my products. My giftboxes are made from recycled materials and are 100% recyclable.
I use bagasse labels and paper tape on my packages, neither of which interefere with the recycling process.
I provide instructions on how to best dispose or reuse each part of the packaging. For instance, I shred void paper I receive in packages from suppliers to then pack and cushion my own parcels. These "shreddies" cannot be put in the recycling bin as they do clog up the machinery and instead should be put into the compost bin.
I work out of a home-based studio, so many of our efforts to live a more sustainable lifestyle feed into the business, as well. We use Bright 100% renewable energy for electricity. We use all LED lightbulbs and upon the replacement of our boiler, will be looking to install a "smart" thermostat system to help make our home heating as efficient as possible.
I do use butane to fuel my torch. There are other fuels available but to my knowledge, none are significantly better than others in regards to environmental impact.
My home studio is a current collection point for Terracycle. Basically, it is a way of recycling many items that local councils do not accept. Anyone can particpate and you can drop off items at any time day or night without any prior permission. Find out more here.