The terms “green” and “sustainable” are used a lot. What do they mean? Most people have a broad definition of them, and there isn’t a standard definition. Truthfully, each industry, even each business, is going to have different standards and different considerations.
These terms “green”, “sustainable” and ``eco conscious” sound good, but stamping a website or marketing with these terms does not really tell the consumer what that means. It’s important to me that I take the time to let people know where I’m making these decisions. It might be when I choose packaging. It might be when I choose one supplier over another.
I’ve grappled with this notion of being green in my business for years. I’ve decided against making certain types of jewelry or using certain techniques because they are such a detriment to the environment. That said, you can look at just about any jewelry technique, or jewelry-making materials and find fault. Being environmentally thoughtful can drive you mad. Ultimately, I do as much research as possible, weigh pros and cons, and then make a decision. I keep my eyes open for better alternatives and switch to those whenever I find one.
A few ways that I make my business environmentally friendly:
Made to last; not to chase trends: I make jewelry that is meant to last. I want it to last a lifetime and be passed along; not end up in the landfill! Much of my jewelry can be recycled if you really wanted to do that. A jeweler can cut out any stones for reuse in another piece and then melt down the silver, gold or bronze for reuse.
Watch those chemicals: Where chemicals are used in jewelry making, I try to find the least toxic option. This is for my health as well as the environment’s. An example of this is substituting sodium bisulfate for a mixture of citric acid and vinegar when pickling jewelry (yep, in case you missed it, here’s my post about pickle). I also use aluminum potassium sulfate. You can find it in most grocery stores and it will be labeled “alum,” My grandma used it to make pickles!
Recycled metals: I use recycled metal. Large suppliers of jewelry making materials offer recycled metals. There are also programs that will take in any metal bits and give the jeweler store credit or cash. Bench jewelers collect the fine metal dust created by sawing or filing silver and gold. These are included with the metal scraps submitted for recycling. Why do this? An incredible amount of energy is used to extract metal ore, as well as in the ongoing smelting and processing operations that emit greenhouse gasses. Plus, why dump metal into the landfill when it’s still very usable?
Keep it local: I try to order from local suppliers or, at least suppliers within the United States. The fuel used in shipping from long distances is a negative.
What’s on the outside does matter: I consider the boxes, inserts, postcards and other details involved in packaging, displays and shipping. Then I try to make the most environmentally friendly choices.
Those are just a few examples of the ways I make my business green. Sometimes I can’t find a truly green option, but, when new options become available, perfected and affordable, I adopt it in my business. There is always a balancing of being green while providing quality craftsmanship and a fantastic customer experience.