May 05, 2018

Areas where I try to be Eco-friendly

     I try to be eco-friendly, including in fibre arts.
     Recently I commented on an article online, a comment about how I try to be eco-friendly with my company, and I've copied the gist of my comment below.  Eco-friendliness is not the The Goal (and I recommend that book for anyone who produces anything), but it is a subordinate goal for my shop.
     I pack sprang loom kits with eco-friendly packing peanuts, and I let the customer know she can take the peanuts into any shipping store for reuse.  For small boxes I've been using plastic bubble wrap that has been used once already but I plan to go back to Caremail Greenwrap, which is paper that is specially cut to act like bubblewrap.  It looks more green and customers can recycle it.  I'll give the plastic stuff to a friend who also ships her work.
     I source most of my wooden fibre arts tools like looms and shuttles from big leaf maples* on Vancouver Island, Canada so I know that wood is not poached or endangered.  I use a non-toxic linseed varnish.  The indigo-dyed (naturally-dyed) t-shirt I sell is organic, so made with less pollution.  The wall hanging I sell is un-dyed, naturally green cotton, so it is bio-diverse and gives less pollution.  The natural dye kit materials are sourced from Maiwa in Vancouver, a company with good ethics.  I sell to handspinners a wool "tasting" kit of different sheep breeds' wool, which promotes biodiversity and preservation of endangered breeds.
     Some of the rose beads I sell are made from organic rose petals.  I use Rio Grande's recycled cardboard jewellery boxes, and I send them my silver scraps from lost wax casting for reuse.  A small portion of the silver I use is Argentium which is definitely recycled, and my metal instructors tell me the rest of Rio's silver is probably recycled.  Rio sells a machine to etch copper and silver using electricity and a chemical instead of a harsh chemical etching solution.  I was looking at it, but the safety data sheet's waste disposal instructions for the chemical are still pretty serious.
     I've re-used elastic bands from my cardboard takeout containers to tie-dye linen fabric for a product in development.  Linen is made from flax plants and has less pollution than cotton.  I plan to see if the local health food store will save their disposable gloves for me to wear while dyeing.  I buy from them water for dyeing that is filtered from municipal water and packaged in reusable jugs so less waste, and less pollution because the water isn't shipped in.
     Our power company lets you pay a surcharge to support renewably-generated electricity, and I do that.
     Water pollution, landfill, deforestation, and species extinction seem like such a shame to me.  A waste.  And not especially safe for people.
     If I was really pure, I would collect water for dyeing in a rain barrel and bicycle my way to the post office with orders, but I'm not.
     Fibershed, which is one of the influences on my work, has changed over the years to put more emphasis on pollution reduction, specifically carbon sequestration through grazing of sheep.**  I am still stuck on the natural dyes part which was more Fibershed's earlier message.  And it's not even the environment impact of dyes*** that gets me, though I appreciate that aspect.  Natural dyes give such a beautiful result.  And I think they are, as founder Burgess claims, healthier to wear than synthetic dyes.  Can't prove it.  But I think so.
     In my private work with the fibre arts, I don't know if there's much more that I do besides what I've already mentioned.  I suppose I consciously limit how much I buy, no S.A.B.L.E. for me.  I try to buy North American products.  I try to buy used equipment.  The only dye made from wood that I would ever use would be osage orange because the trees are considered too abundant in nature.  I've dyed with local black walnut hulls which are a waste product here in Virginia.  I rarely use silk but that's more out of concern for the working conditions in silk factories than anything environmental.  One day I'd like to get some secondhand silk clothing and dye it.  However, I have other things to get through before that.  I'm not used to having this long a to-do list, really.
     In other news around here, the språng demonstration went well last week.  The pillow I stuffed with shredded natural latex worked out well and only took 2.5 pounds of fill.  The indigo-dyed cotton pillow slip looks excellent.  I got more linen in my life by buying a stack of imperfectly-printed tea towels from a local artist's store, Pat Cully Illustrations.
     Update: health regulations prevent the store from saving disposable gloves for me.

*big leaf maple trees, or broadleaf maples, are interesting in that they have leaves the size of dinner plates.  They are pretty common on the Island.

**Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms had a great quote in a recent newsletter about the benefit of grazing animals: "making our soil great again."  I'd like to put that on a t-shirt.  I have a photo of a grazing ram to go with it.

***it's not just about water pollution, there's the possibility of taking invasive plant species and using them for dye.  Which I've done, with Scotch broom.

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