Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. These three R’s I learned as a kid were drilled into my psyche pretty well. I mean considering all of the of Earth Day projects in school and growing up in a home where these concepts were practiced daily it would have been hard to ignore all the messaging. My Dad always made sure lights were turned off in rooms that were not in use and he had lots of creative ways to reuse things. My Mom is big on recycling and instilled in me a sense of responsibility to recycle.
Having learned these concepts as a kid, looking back now I can see how they influenced certain behaviors as an adult. Where I lived as a kid the county had a pick up service for recycling but the town where I lived during college didn’t have recycling pick up. Instead there were recycling drop off centers, so at every place I lived I had containers to collect recyclables during the week and I would take them to the drop off center next to campus. When I worked at an animal shelter one of my tasks was to sort through the donations, store the things that we could use and trash the rest. But there was so much stuff that we couldn’t use but was still useable. Some of it I was able to pass off on coworkers and I would save what I could but it still hurt a little bit somewhere inside to toss all this useful stuff.
When Shannon and I were getting to know one another one of the exciting things to learn we had in common was our practice of the three R’s. We discovered it in little ways at first. We found out we shared similar views on recycling when we went camping together as we both collected the plastic bottles to take home to recycle instead of throwing them in the trash bag. We discovered that going to the thrift store together could be an exciting date; finding neat second hand housewares and fun clothing.
As I got older I started learning about more DIY ways to source materials for crafting. I started using rocks I had collected out in nature to wire wrap into pendants. I began making wood slabs to wood burn on as well as claves out of the tree branches that I would collect from my Mom’s yard after a storm. I was super excited to learn about sourcing free wood from pallets and getting to build things. Finding a free source of wood made me feel more comfortable about trying to make things I never had before like a workbench (thank you for your help on that one Sophie!) and stools.
The major ways that we practice the three R’s in our business is by using a lot of repurposed and sustainably sourced material in our crafts and artwork. We have sourced a lot of supplies from organizational jobs and move out cleans. Paper, cards, art supplies. I use mostly found metal in my metal work. We get a lot of wood from my Mom’s property and her neighbor, who we call St. Andy, always lets me know when he has pruned his trees to come grab whatever I might find useful. Shannon has been monitoring the neighborhood page and has gotten us some beautiful wood from neighbors downed trees. There are a few friends that keep us in mind and let us know if they have some good wood hanging around. Shannon started up-cycling gently used clothing for dye work when she learned how much water it takes to make just one t-shirt. We are always looking for new ways to reuse or salvage materials for our creations.
It’s not just the ways we procure material to make stuff, we also bring those ideas into how we vend our products. We reduce waste when we are vend our wares by using bungie balls instead of zip ties. We also don’t have to bag up every item we sell. Sometimes folks have brought their own bag, other times they want to wear it right away, and if they do need a bag we provide one that we have saved to reuse from shopping. Most of our displays have either come from the thrift store or have been hand-me-downs from other vendors. If the venue does not provide a recycling service we carry ours out. Shannon is utilizing lower water use dye techniques to reduce the amount of water she uses to dye clothing. We reuse packing material to ship online orders.
Now that we are looking more at sustainability it is easy to see how we both practiced it in our lives and how we brought all of that into sharing a household and business. There are lots of things we were already doing but there are so many new ideas to play with as we expand how we think about sustainability. Shannon has been really intrigued by trash houses and art. I’ve been getting excited researching hempcrete and about how to switch a house over to solar power. We’re both looking at ways to make sustainability our lifestyle as well as integral to our business model.