Thursday, July 03, 2008

Green & Clean…as much as I can manage, anyway.

Written by Kate Jones

Living a green lifestyle has been important to me for a while, and
it's moved more to the forefront of my attention over the last six
months or so. I shan't go into general ways of doing this — there are
a lot of sites out there that do it already and do a better job of it
than I could. But I can address a small part of it here — how I'm
running a business as green as I can.
First come the easy things — turning off my computer, my camera, my
lights when I'm not using them. Rechargeable batteries (in a solar
charger) for the camera. Working with natural light whenever possible,
and riding my bike to the local natural foods store for supplies.
That's low-hanging fruit; easy stuff.
After that, I had to think about things a little harder. I've begun
getting more of my supplies at thrift stores and such. Pitchers and
molds for soapmaking from the Salvation Army, a couple of necklaces
with pretty beads from Ares Thirft Store (which I'll pick apart and
reuse), a postal scale from a little consignment shop down on Third.
That bike I ride to the natural foods place was twenty-five dollars at
the Humane Society thrift store (and supports a good cause, to boot).
A buck fifty for a screws-and-bolts organizer that'll hold beads just
as well.
I store my bath salts in reused popcorn containers, let my lip balms
sit in the sun in glass jars that once held pickles or jelly. The
wicker three-drawer chest holding my herbs and the matching one filled
with beads came from the Salvation Army. I have an entire spool of
copper wire that someone was going to throw away — that gets turned
into wound-wire beads and other ornaments.
But there are some things you just have to buy new. Used olive oil?
Nuh-uh. But buying it in bulk not only saves me money, it uses a lot
less packaging (and a lot less oil to run the packaging machine, as
well). Same with beads when I do buy them new; same with the wire I
string my necklaces on. I save scraps of wire from necklaces to make a
bracelet, from a bracelet to make a pair of earrings. I've gotten good
at using a length of wire that's almost too short and making it work
Instead of buying premade necklace clasps (oil to run the machines to
make them, oil for the packaging, oil to pack them up) I make my own
from a spool of silver wire — yes, bought new (though I wouldn't pass
up such a spool if I found it used) but it's probably spared the world
a half-pound of discarded packaging already. And while I do recycle
the thin cardboard holding bead packages when I'm gifted them, I'd
rather they weren't made in the first place.
My own packaging was a conundrum. I experimented with reusing glass
jars purchased at thrift stores for a bit, but people didn't find them
appealing and when I thought about it, I realized why — bath salts are
intimate, they go in a bath you're going to put your body in; you
don't want the container to have once held peanut butter. So, I was
going to have to buy new.
Plastic jars were less expensive, but I went with glass. Glass jars
are far more reusable — plastic holds the scent of whatever came in
it, it discolors and cracks in the sun, often isn't safe to put in
the dishwasher. If it comes to it, glass is easily recycled into more
glass just like it. Plastic, when it is recyclable, takes more energy,
leaves more waste, and can only be recycled into other products —
plastic lawn furniture, for example, which then can't be recycled when
it inevitably breaks. Glass was by far the better choice, price
difference notwithstanding.
A similar consideration drove my purchase of stainless steel
containers for my salves and lip balms, instead of much cheaper
plastic. And once I have a storefront of my own, I can offer to refill
your Om Shanti bath salts jar or lip balm tin for a discount,
encouraging people to reuse them often. :)
Shipping? I get boxes free at work; packing peanuts and bubble wrap
come from a local trophy store that's more than happy to let me take
what they don't need rather than throwing it away. Pretty printed
address labels are nice but I can use a Sharpie just fine, too. And
the post office is a long ride on my bike, but hey, I needed to get
into shape anyway…
There's only so much I can do. The computer, the camera, the lights;
the stove to heat things for soap or lip balm; the car driving me to
craft shows; the packaging inherent in things I do have to buy; even
the light and heat to power the thrift stores I shop at. But I do what
I can, and I invite everyone reading this to do the same.

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