Thursday, September 9, 2010

Creating a Sustainable Business Part II - The Environment

A sustainable business needs to take into consideration 3 things - people, profits and the planet.

1. People - the people your business touches including yourself and your family, your employees, your customers and the other people your business supports.

2. Profits - if your business is not making money, you will probably not be able to "sustain" it for very long

3. Planet - the future of which is quite literally in our hands

So, we want to create a sustainable business - affecting the environment as little as possible - but we also want to make things for a living and sell them.

How do we balance this?

Well, I think the very fact that more and more makers are asking these questions is a great thing and of course, doing something is always better than doing nothing.

I try not to use components produced in certain countries in my work (although this is not possible with everything) because their environmental practices and labor wages do not sustain people or the planet.

I try not to use toxic chemicals in my work, but brazing is a toxic activity (only to me and those in my immediate vicinity, often my hubby since this is done in his shop) as well as pouring resin. When I can use nontoxic materials though, I always do - again doing something is better than doing nothing.

I try to use recycled and recyclable packaging materials, but a test tube shipped without bubble wrap is a test tube that is probably not going to arrive in one piece, so I buy the biodegradable bubble wrap (even though my own tests with it haven't been totally successful) and use recyclable newspaper.

And, I use a few energy saving techniques in my studio including temperature control, using CFLs and surge strips so I can turn everything off with the flip of a couple switches - all easy, peasy stuff.

This is not to say everyone else has to do these things (and many people are doing alot more) - some of these things may be a good place to start though if you are thinking about the sustainability of what you do.

Note - we are not seeking perfection - we are just seeking to have the smallest impact on the natural environment with our work.

The planet is the one P in the 3 P's of sustainability where making a huge impact is not a good thing.

If it is possible to use a sustainable or locally produced piece in our work - maybe passing the additional costs, along with the story (see Part I of this series) of that component used in our piece on to our customer so they can feel good about the materials and methods that have gone into their purchase. This can also produce some great opportunities to collaborate with other makers.

Also remember that you have your own story and your own need to earn a sustainable living and you are not doing anyone a favor by being your own slave labor department (working on this one).

(customers really don't need or want - for more than 5 minutes- more mass-produced junk and as makers trying to make a living with a sustainable business we certainly don't want it obscuring the importance of craft and durability)

Walk into a store and ask the salesperson about the material and production of the item you are looking at and you will probably get a blank stare. This is a huge advantage to us as designers and makers.

We can know what goes into our products and we can work to make those materials (components, packaging, shipping) as environmentally friendly as possible.

We cannot be perfect in this and just having a global business creates lots of planetary wear and tear, but in making sustainable environmental practices a priority to us I believe we are sending the energy of our long term commitment to our business out into the world.

<--- Thirsty fine art photo print by abcd images
(so beautiful)

Next Week- Part III Creating a Sustainable Business - Aesthetics

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