May 3, 2012

Make Your Art Business More Environmentally Friendly

I've been wanting to do a post on how to run a more green small business as an artist or crafter for a while now, and finally had the time to do so! It's very important to me to operate Lu & Ed with as little impact on the Earth as possible. I compiled some of my basic practices here and I hope these ideas help other artists make the switch to more economical and environmentally friendly practices!

While there are many ways as an artist and small business owner to reduce waste and make an impact, it definitely requires a 'thinking out side of the (big) box' mentality and searching for eco-friendly sources of materials, alternative shipping options, and production/waste management. Coincidentally, despite what many think, switching to more environmentally friendly habits also saves you money! Here are a few ideas that have worked for me to help turn crafting businesses into a more green operation:

Consider new shipping methods. Flat rate UPS shipping is SO convenient and fast - but it can lead to putting small things in big boxes, and paying more for shipping. Instead, recycle packaging from another source, use a box that fits your product as snugly as possible with proper padding (junk mail works great for this!) and while you're at it, try out first class - typically, packages arrive within 3 days, at the most, 5 days, and it is on average half or less the cost of shipping priority mail. Lowering shipping expenses, which always makes everyone happy. ;) I turn food boxes inside-out and use those for shipping Mon-stors. :)

Tap new venues. Thrift and antique stores are great places to get supplies to make on of a kind pieces of art. For the jewelers out there, think of all the lovely strands of beads hanging around in thrift stores. Clasps can be taken off of bracelets there and reused, along with the jewelry wire. For the artists, thrift stores, flea markets and antique stores offer a plethora of beautiful frames for art - a little sanding and spray paint, and you have a custom frame to put your art in. Plus you can paint over generic, store bought canvases that people have dumped there with some primer and have a blank canvas for a fraction of the cost of buying one at a craft store. For the seamstresses, fabric options are absolutely endless! Curtains, sheets, blankets, comforters, raw yardage, dresses, robes, clothing, pillows. Not to mention the hidden gems you wander upon, jewelry tools, knitting needles and crochet hooks, raw canvases, sewing machines, shears, bags of beads, buttons and thread spools. Don't get discouraged if your first few trips to thrift stores disappoint - remember, they have a rotating inventory, so check back often. And don't limit yourself - I have 4 thrift stores I frequent often in search of new fabrics!

Don't toss what you won't use. Just because you won't use that half full tube of glitter or those little scraps of yarn doesn't mean someone else can't. Donate scraps of unneeded craft supplies to churches, schools, art studios that host workshops, or nursing homes. They will appreciate your donations! If you want to donate craft supplies to the children's ward of hospitals, please check ahead with the hospital staff to find what craft supplies they deem acceptable.

Stop ordering online. If you can, buy it at the store in person, and save the shipping costs, the packaging and the fuel used to mail, distribute and deliver your packages from online stores. By removing the cost of shipping supplies you purchase, you're lowering your overhead costs. Plus this gives you an opportunity to distribute business cards and make connections - you never know who you will meet that will be interested in your art!

Watch what you spend. Do you really need to buy more fabric/ribbons/beads/paint/etc? Or do you just want to? Think about your purchases, think about what you already have at home, and consider if this is something you actually need - eliminating unnecessary spending reduces consumption from big box stores, which reduces the energy, fuel and packaging that is used to stock stores. Eliminating unnecessary spending also lowers your overhead costs, again saving you money, and you don't have an excess of supplies just sitting around, which means less clutter, which means less stress. :)  Instead, shop smart for projects that you have in mind, or buy only things that inspire you that you will use in a timely manner. If you can't think of an immediate use for it, don't buy it.

Give it the birds. This is probably only effective if you sew or do fiber arts, but you can take your
scraps of fiber, yarn, fabric, thread scraps, hemp or string and fill a hanging basket or potato sack in your yard for birds to gather nesting materials. You can do this year round, and also add dryer lint. They use it to insulate their nests. :)

Make your own.  Make your own business cards, thank you cards, coupon cards, and other promotional materials. Double points if you reuse paper materials to make them. To make your own business cards, get blank card stock or reuse paper board from your recycling bin, paper cutter, a personalized stamp with your business info (love these custom stamps by AngeliqueInk) and some good jams to zone out to while you work. The paperboard inserts in fat quarters are excellent to use as little thank you postcards! Use a thank you stamp to make a statement then hand write a note of gratitude - or a special coupon code for their next order!

Paper, plastic, or fabric? If you frequent craft shows, consider investing in or making some fabric shopping bags to offer as an option to purchase, to give as free gifts, or use as a buying incentive - free reusable bag with every $15 purchase? This makes you appeal to environmentally aware consumers, and reduces paper/plastic consumption by offering a long lasting alternative to using paper/plastic bags. Also, if you sew, you can make yourself some pretty rad reusable bags to use in all these thrift stores you will be frequenting, and when people ask where you got such an awesome tote, whip out a business card. ;) Here is a tutorial to turn tee shirts into tote bags. Hit up the $0.25 sales at Goodwill and grab a bunch of shirts and turn them into totes!

Supplement.  If you often use polyfil to stuff pillows, creatures, or other things, fluff that stuff up. Instead of tossing your fabric scraps, cut it up and throw it into the polyfil! It beefs up the stuffing and reduces landfill waste!

I hope that you found some of these tips useful, and if you have any other ideas or tips, or if you just liked what you read, feel free to leave me a comment here! :)

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