I wanted to explain a little bit about some of the choices I make as a handmade artist, and how those choices reflect my commitment to continually lowering my environmental footprint. First - I don't make every single component on my jewelry. I'm not a metalsmith, I don't even know where to begin when it comes to that. But I do want to source my metal components from ethical companies who are transparent about their own supply chain. Most of the metal pieces that I use come from two companies in the United States, and most of the metal pieces they make are made here, as well. Two of the metal items I regularly use are made in Italy. I do have a few metal items that I use that I'm currently unable to trace their origins, and because of that, I'm currently in talks with a local metalsmith to have her create those pieces for me. It's really important to me that the additional components that I use are made ethically, and I'm regularly looking at ways to refine and better my sourcing. Of course, that does come at a higher price, but I know that my customers appreciate this part as well as the trash part.
The colorful pieces on my jewelry are made from trash plastics - plastics I find during clean-ups and plastics that are recycled with me. In most cases the plastics I use are not recyclable where I live (make sure you check with your own local recycler to find out what they take!). While I do use some resin, it's a minimal amount. It's from a company called Entropy Resins - it's a plant based bio-resin and the company is a member of 1% for the Planet. As far as resins go, theirs was the only company that I could find that was transparent about their process and didn't try to mislead the customer about their product.
The algae that is used in some of my pendants and earrings is harvested from trash items collected during beach clean-ups. Ocean plants will grow on soft materials (like socks, pants, gloves, etc.) that fall into the ocean. When those items wash ashore, I pull the algae off before throwing the trash part away. That is the algae that's used in my tide pool pendants. My instagram has a highlight reel that includes some of the many "algae farms" I've found through the years.
I make most of my own shipping materials or I re-use discarded shipping materials. All of my shipping boxes are either handmade from other used shipping boxes, or they're reclaimed used shipping boxes. I pack in plastic bags that I either make from discarded plastics, or are already made but never used discarded plastic bags from a local medical company. The rest of the box is packed with shredded paper made from discarded materials. When I sell at in person events, I package jewelry in padded envelopes made from discarded bubble mailers and thrift store wrapping paper. I do use paper packing tape and stickers to brand and seal the boxes, although I'm looking at making the switch to compostable tapes and stickers when my current supply runs out.
I engage in regular clean-ups and post about those on social media, in an effort to encourage others to do the same. I consider clean-ups part of my job as an artist, and I won't sell my art unless I'm actively involved in regular clean-ups. In November I'll start tracking the waste collected so that I can compare and contrast any new plastic coming in to the company vs. what I remove from the environment. The goal is to be at minimum plastic neutral, but ultimately plastic negative.
My company is a member of Ocean Conservancy's Champions for Sea Change program, which means we donate a minimum of $1,000 a year to their organization. We also donate $1 for each order shipped out to Mangrove Action Project. A few years ago I noticed that social media algorithms pushed a lot of ads my way from companies that claimed to give a certain percentage of sales towards conservation efforts. When I looked further into a lot of these companies, I realized that there was no transparency regarding donations, no partnership, and in some cases, it was very obviously a fraudulent claim. I wanted to be fully transparent about our giving, and we reached out to the above mentioned organizations to make sure that we were following their policies when it comes to mentioning their name regarding our donations. In addition, our donation receipts are posted in a highlight reel on my Instagram, so you can always check to make sure that as a company, we're giving back in the manner that we claim.
I recently made the decision to invest in a years worth of sustainability courses through Coursera , so that I can continue to make more educated and informed choices regarding my own business. I also want to make sure the information I pass on is current and accurate. By paying for the Coursera courses, I am agreeing to take these classes within a set timeframe, and to have my work graded. This insures that I'm actually doing the work that I say I am (Coursera does allow you to audit courses for free, which I highly recommend if you're not in a position to purchase individual courses or a subscription).
And finally, when you are done with your Hey Lola jewelry (or any jewelry for that matter), send it back to us and we'll recycle/repurpose it. We might create new jewelry, we might incorporate parts into our sculptures, we might use the beads for other projects. But we'll find a way to give your previously loved jewelry new life. And yes - even if it's broken! You can send your jewelry to:
Hey Lola Art Company
PO Box 5819
Peoria, IL 61601
I feel like I may be missing some things, but those are definitely the highlights of how I create and package and market my recycled jewelry. As always, I'm open to any tips or suggestions you want to share, and I appreciate you taking the time to read!