In our studio we believe in crafting products to be worn and loved for a lifetime, and being mindful of the materials and processes we use to create them. We believe that sustainability isn’t an all or nothing practice. It comes from consciously making one good decision at a time.
This is why my shopmates Christy Natsumi, Sharon Zimmerman and I decided to enroll our businesses in the California Green Business Program. With the help of the San Francisco Green Business Team, we took a hard look at our shared studio practices. Together we made changes to our shop to qualify as a Green Business.
The jewelry industry is notoriously harsh on the environment. We believe as the next generation of jewelers that it’s our duty to lead by example. The excuse of "too expensive" or "too difficult" won't fly with consumers when independent designers practice it with ease. We show that taking steps toward better environmental practices is not only possible, but will soon be the new standard.
Responsible mining practices for gems and precious metals are essential to running a sustainable jewelry business. But they are broad topics we will drill into another day. Today we'll share what changes we made around the studio to make us green, and why they matter.
Recycling Scraps & Sweeps
The act of recycling precious metal scrap is not a new practice to goldsmithing because, frankly, there’s money to reclaim. So like most jewelers we make an effort to collect and refine all metal scrap. This includes dust, our floor sweepings, and anything that could contain trace amounts of precious metals. We even collect our used sandpaper, saw blades, and polishing buffs to refine.
These scraps are sent out to a refinery to be melted down. They are assayed for their precious metal content, and introduced back into the jewelry ecosystem as sheet and wire we jewelers can use. The jewelry in my collection is created using these reclaimed raw metal products.
The practice of reusing every bit of precious metal we can reduces the industry’s need for new mining.
Recycling and Composting
San Francisco leads the nation with the most stellar recycling system in the country. And we’re darn proud of that. By 2020, SF hopes to reach its goal of zero waste. At that time all refuse collected will either be recycled or composted.
Today, more than half of what is sent to the landfills can already be composted or recycled. Around the studio we use every effort to responsibly collect and sort these goods. Posted signage educates our visitors and workers about how to sort their refuse.We compost all food, plant waste and biodegradable products. All paper, packaging, bottles and cans, and even plastic wrap or film that’s collected in a larger bag is recycled. Electronics, batteries, and lightbulbs are collected and recycled at our local Cole Hardware.
Still curious about what each bin holds? Visit SFrecycles.org to see for yourself!
Choosing Better Products
We have committed to purchasing soaps and cleaning products made from non-toxic ingredients. These products are better for our health and the environment.
We found an easy way to see if our cleaning products meet healthy standards by looking them up on the Good Guide. The Good Guide ranking system checks the ingredients of each product for health hazards. It combines that information with a rating of the product’s effectiveness. Our SF Green Business Certification encourages us to use products with a rating of 8.1 or higher.
This was one of the easiest changes for us, hands down. Comparing Soap A and Soap B is easy to do right at the store with the Good Guide’s handy app. We encourage you to try it out yourself. We were shocked to learn not all products marketed as “green” have good ratings!
Choosing Sustainable Office Supplies
Recycled printer paper has been a longtime staple in our studio. But we hadn’t given as much scrutiny to the other paper products around the shop. To meet the certification, all paper products needed to be 50% post consumer content (PCW). This included paper towels, packaging materials, gift boxes, and even our marketing materials!
Again, an extra moment spent reading the label does wonders. We now buy our favorite Trader Joe's Brands with confidence. We were happy to learn our gift and shipping boxes passed muster too.We relied Moo for our postcards for years. But upon closer examination I learned their inks did not meet the Green Business Standards. So we made the switch to Greenerprinter. Now all postcards, business cards, and collateral not only meet the PCW rule, but they use low VOC inks on offset press orders, which are better for our environment.
Conserve Energy & Resources
We’re practicing good habits and making thoughtful purchases to help conserve energy. Like most of the changes we’ve made around the shop, we've been able to “set it and forget it!”We started by replacing all light fixtures with LED or CFL bulbs. Our building had recently replaced all the overhead fluorescent bulbs with LED’s. Score! So we turned our attention to our bench lamps and other lighting around the studio. One by one we replaced our bulbs with more energy efficient models.
Next up, we took a closer look at our computers and printers. Setting a short sleep timer was an easy way to make our devices more energy efficient. Finally, we posted some signs to encourage good habits. Our work sink and bathroom sinks now have stickers encouraging water conservation. And our friend Al Gore reminds us to turn out the lights.
Can You Go Green Too?
Your home or studio might not have the support of the SF Green Business Association or San Francisco's recycling initiative. But I’m willing to bet you saw a few things on this list you could change in your own home.
Maybe you will take an extra minute at the store to compare your favorite cleaning products. You could set the sleep timer on your computer to save a little energy. Or give yourself a laugh and a reminder to turn off the lights with a funny sign. We hope you'll find your own way to move toward sustainability one good decision at a time.