The Hello Craft Summit of Awesome was this past weekend, and it was fantastical! The Summit included workshops, demonstrations, and talks about all aspects of crafting and crafty business from planning a show to greening your process. I spoke on the Crafting a Green Craft panel with the amazing Liz Grotyohann and Jeff Fein-Worton of Cosa Verde and Jamie Chan and Blas Herrera from Urban Fauna Studio.
[Green Crafting Panel at the Summit of Awesome. Photo by Christy Petterson]
Liz and Jeff kicked things off with some green crafty eye candy. I was particularly struck by a soap-making company that they talked about: Ethically Engineered. The Chicago soap-maker produces 100% organic vegan soaps using solar energy powered equipment. Even their packaging is recycled and biodegradable!
Amazing, right? That’s the sort of crafty practice that I feel like most green crafters are working to achieve. Not everyone is quite to this point yet, but don’t despair! One of the themes that ran through all of the talks on this panel was the idea that you shouldn’t let the fact that you can’t do it all stop you from lowering your crafty impact wherever you can.
Liz and Jeff had a beautiful slide show of Cosa Verde sellers using eco-friendly materials and practices. Whether you choose organic, recycled, cruelty free, or go all the way like Ethically Engineered, you’re making a difference! Liz and Jeff both stressed their firm belief in “the little steps that help make a big change.”
One of the easiest first steps to crafting in a more Earth-friendly way is to really consider the materials you use. You once you start thinking about your components – where they came from, who made them, what happens to the bits and pieces that you can’t work into your project – you’ll start to see all sorts of little ways to use less and reduce your impact. You can sort of get an idea about some of the things I’ve learned about my own materials in some past Fab Fabrics posts. The pesticides involved and worker conditions that go along with many conventional fabrics can get pretty atrocious.
I feel like the best thing that you can do is try to be a materialist. Not so much in the Madonna way, but by placing real value on your materials. Crafters tend to be in this mindset already. You look at things and see their value and their potential. That is a beautiful thing, and it’s such a natural next step to start sourcing sustainable materials and work towards closing your production loop. That can mean anything from a seamstress saving her teeny fabric scraps to stuff pillows to a paper crafter using leftover paper to pack orders. Reusing and recycling crafty byproducts goes such a long way in reducing your crafty impact!
Jamie and Blas are working on certifying Urban Fauna Studio as a green business, and they shared what they’ve learned along the way. Words like “green” and “sustainable” have sort of been co-opted by big corporations, and not always in an honest way. That sort of waters down the meaning of those terms. A certification process can not only help give you a little eco-cred, it sounds like many of these programs will also coach business owners on the steps they need to take.
Certifications program applicants follow legal environmental guidelines and work on conserving resources, like energy and water. Jamie and Blas talked about a few ways to do that, like using recycled ink cartridges, recycling everything that you aren’t able to repurpose, and purchasing carbon offsets to balance out the portion of your impact that you aren’t able to control.
To find a certification company in your area, you can do something as simple as a quick Google search for “green business certification Atlanta.” Once you’ve found a company you trust, they’ll provide their requirements. Even if you’re not able to immediately meet all of the requirements right away, Jamie and Blas said that you can comply by writing up a plan. Their example was plastic baggies. They had purchased something like 1000 baggies not too long before deciding to get certified. Rather than throw them away, they are going to use what they have, then replace the baggies with a biodegradable alternative when they’re gone.
Your Crafty Impact
Whether you’re working on wasting less and using more eco-friendly materials or getting a green certification, I felt like there were a couple of threads that ran through everyone’s talks.
Jamie and Blas summed one of those up nicely when they stressed the importance of writing up your mission statement or manifesto to keep you on track. They also talked about being careful to avoid pitfalls like the Seven Sins of Greenwashing. Just staying mindful goes a long way.
The other common sentiment was that everybody has to start somewhere. Once you start doing your research, it’s easy to go to that dark place where you feel hopeless and a little bit powerless. You are not! You’re making a difference just by using your hands and your creativity to make what’s in your heart. All you can do is your best, and you can always strive to improve your processes.