As business owners and makers vowing to be a part of the sustainability movement, we must be aware of the ways we are or are not contributing to greenwashing. Far too often, as a consumer, I see just words.
Especially to those who are outsourcing their products, we owe it to our customers to provide them with more than just words on our website. Have you been to the farms growing your plants? Have you been to the space sewing your garments? Seen and spoken to the laborers first hand on their wellbeing and work environment? Do you know who owns the companies you are buying materials from, and the experience of the people who work there?
Let’s expand the “sustainability”/ “sourcing” section of our websites this year/season/week . Let’s provide the resources for our customers to know 110% that they are putting their hard earned dollars into a business doing more for our one earth.
I challenge my friends, fellow business owners and beyond, to be more transparent about where and how your products are being made and shipped. If you’re worried about someone else stealing these resources if they are not able to scale: provide photos. Show us or give us the resources to find for ourselves exactly where your products are being made and how and by who. ESPECIALLY if you claim you are a sustainable business.
I do not give this list of resources out for other businesses to blindly follow. But for my customers to know who I supply from and why. And to set a small example of the research we must be doing on our OWN to find what works best for US. And what fits our own criteria- both personally and environmentally.
I am not perfect as a human or business owner…nor am saying the only way to make a difference is to be perfect. But there are steps we can take everyday to do better.
Tools, glaze chemicals, etc.: Clay Art Center Tacoma
The Clay Art Center is just a few miles from my house, which I am SO grateful for. I buy all my clay, glazing supplies, tools, and kiln accessories. It is a small business run by super kind people and employee a good number of people in the area.
I buy glazing chemicals in bulk (10-50lb bags) which reduces waste in the glaze making process. All my glazes are mixed by me, so I do not contribute to excess plastic if I were to buy pre-mixed buckets.
Clay: Laguna Clay
The clay I buy from the Clay Art Center is Laguna. It is mined and mixed in California (the clay bodies I use). In doing research to further investigate what the mining process looks like, I didn’t find too much. I wrote them asking for more information on their clay harvesting process but didn't hear back. Since, I have been writing and talking to many potters about this. The consensus with pottery studio clay is that the footprint is incredibly small and areas can be used for harvesting for a very long time. Where sourcing gets to be really important is in terms of chemicals- especially colorants like cobalt (which I don't use).
I am definitely not finished with this investigation and am continuing to try and find more information. Personally I don't think the "it is such a relatively small footprint of a company as well as the overall impact of studio potters (compared to say, fashion and growing cotton for fabric or something)" is enough. I think it is assuming many thing without actually knowing...so this is to be continued and to be further explored.
Marketing Materials (business cards, thank you notes in packages, flyers at markets): Moo
I tried to supply my marketing materials from a local print shop. But ran into multiple issues with each one. Either they messed large orders up- causing me to have to recycle cards or not get them in time, didn’t meet *very* loose/long deadlines, other issues in the ordering process, or didn’t provide a recycled paper option. I found Moo from a friend and have been really happy with their products. My business cards are made from recycled cotton scraps from the fashion industry- that would be going into the landfill otherwise.
They ship everything in paper rather than plastic, as well. So other than a small sticker that seals the box and strip of tape, it is plastic free. I have it on my list to write them and suggest they go fully plastic-free. Although they do make stickers, so I am guessing that the sticker on the box is more of a marketing material than anything.
I also loved to find they have a CPO: Chief People Officer- someone who’s job it is to gauge the wellbeing go their employees. It seems as though they take good care of their employees and everything is printed here in the US, meaning they are creating lots of jobs as well.
Shipping Supplies (Packaging, zero-waste shipping labels): EcoEnclose and Summit Packaging Co
EcoEnclose- Louisville, CO
I discovered EcoEnclose when I first began my business and was living in Boulder, CO. They are AMAZING. Such nice people with a serious desire to create better packaging and shipping solutions for the environment.
I order their fully zero-waste shipping labels (even the back adhesive is recyclable which is amazing), tissue, and recycled kraft paper bags for markets. It is worth the shipping to support this business and be sure I am using the best materials for the amount I need to use per package.
Summit Packaging Co – Auburn, WA via Ranpak
I recently realized that Ranpak has reps who can link you up with someone local to provide their incredible Greenwrap. I began using their bubble wrap alternative- GreenWrap about 4 years ago. It is a paper cut in a way that when you pull it, it creates a honeycomb texture which acts as padding around objects. Since I used the switch, I have had FAR less pots break in the mail than when I was using bubble wrap (and thought that was the only material out there to do the trick).
Find the contact page on RanPaks site to track down a local supplier. Through them, if you are using a lot (I would recommend shipping anywhere over 20 packages a month), you can rent a dispenser for a low one-time fee (I use the WrapPak M) and get paper refills rather than having all the recycling that comes with using the disposable ones (WrapPak Ex).
I also get my recycled kraft paper rolls from them for void fill.
This is a business a few miles from my house that makes all their boxes onsite with SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) certified sourcing, have won environmental awards here in Tacoma for establishing a system that recycles 750 tons of paper each month, trimmings from production are collected and returned to a local paper mill to turn back into paper, and they recently worked with the City of Tacoma to design and install a new state-of-the-art wastewater treatment system. “the system removes solids, and other forms of contaminates from wastewater before discharging to the City of Tacoma’s sanitary sewer. The new system has treated over 50,000 gallons of wastewater to date, producing as its only byproduct a harmless biodegradable filter cake that is acceptable for disposal at the local landfill.”
They also have gotten to know me with will give me the boxes that they cannot sell due to damage (that doesn’t get in the way of the functionality of the box), so they can be used! This alone shows such a prioritization for the planet. Many manufacturers (including the local print shops I stopped using- as mentioned above) would still charge a lesser fee for such materials. In the case of business cards they messed up, it unfortunately doesn’t make sense for me to buy 1,000 cards that are printed wrong- even if they are 50% off. So thanks, Pacific!
Recyclable Paper Tape: NoIssue
I have been really happy with them so far! I made the switch (thanks to an awesome IG follower) after I was told that the owner of the company I used to buy from, Stickermule, has supported anti-LGBQ+ programs and is an outspoken Trump Supporter. None of this info came up when I was looking him up- it seems the original post has been hidden and his twitter account circa a few years ago when I think there was something he posted revealing this info. Since there has clearly been no accountability on his part.
NoIssue has low minimums and their tape is recyclable. Many other custom paper tape suppliers (Ecoenclose, etc.) have VERY high minimums and I simply don't have the space in my office for all that tape! I also like to buy in smaller quantities in case I decide I want to change up the design. Buying in huge quantities is a huge commitment for a small business. From what I have seen/read they seem like a good company too.
What else would you like to know about?? Comment below and I’ll do my best to answer: