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Sustainability and the environment

I’m passionate about having an environmentally friendly business and doing things in the right way. As a new small business (it’s just me!) I am in a great position to make the right choices from the outset.

On this page you will find information about the different elements of my business and the steps I’m taking to minimise my impact.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for, think that I’ve got something wrong, or (best of all) have ideas about how I could be doing something better, then please get in touch. I would love to hear from you.

Card

I use a lot of card in the manufacture of my greeting cards. It’s sort of the main bit.

My card comes pre-creased and cut to the correct size, so there is no wastage from trimming. I use the whole piece of card.

I am supplied by Eco-Craft who are doing business (I think) in the right way:

It is our company policy to offer greener products that are more ecologically sound than their standard counterparts. We source our products from reputable green suppliers wherever possible and take great care to research the credentials of the papers we use. Most of the paper and card are 100% recycled and the majority contain a large proportion of post consumer waste (ie. old brochures, print outs, etc.). The proof of this can be seen in the occasional tiny fleck or speckle which can sometimes be found in the card we stock.

Choosing recycled products is a positive step towards helping to conserve the Earth’s natural resources and reduce the amount of waste which would otherwise go to landfill.

(You can read more about them on their website)

I use two of their cards: eco-natural and white (both at 300 gsm). Both use 100% post consumer paper, sourced from the EU, and are bleached using non-chlorine bleaches. You can see a full specification sheet here.

Envelopes

Almost as important as the card, the envelopes are a key part of my greeting cards.

As with the card, I am supplied by Eco-Craft and, to-date, I have used both their white and green envelopes. (Please see the ‘Card’ section for more information about Eco-Craft.) Both are made with 100% post consumer waste, sourced from the UK and the EU. They are manufactured here in the UK.

Eco-craft confirm on their website that:

Our envelopes are free from animal based adhesives and do not contain any gelatine. (The sealed parts use PVA and the flap glue is potato starch based)… As far as is humanly possible we are happy that our products are animal friendly and should be suitable for use by vegetarians / vegan.

Protective bags

Both my prints and my greeting cards come in a clear protective sleeve.

Greeting cards:

The sleeves are made from corn starch and are supplied by Eco-Craft. They are fully compostable and should break down in around 45 days. I have not measured this myself but if anyone fancies having a go, grab your compost bin and a calendar – I’d love to hear what happens!

In normal conditions, they should not degrade and, certainly, the stock that I have held for the last couple of months shows no sign of wear or tear.

As with the envelopes, Eco-Craft have confirmed that:

The self seal bags using a non toxic petro-chemical based adhesive tape (free from any animal products including Gelatine)… As far as is humanly possible we are happy that our products are animal friendly and should be suitable for use by vegetarians / vegan.

Art prints:

These are also packaged in A4-sized sleeves made from corn starch.

The prints are also backed with a card backing board, to give rigidity to the packaged product. This backing card is made from 100% recycled board (post-consumer waste), supplied by Eco-Craft.

Mounted prints:

Unfortunately, Eco-Craft cannot supply a corn starch sleeve large enough for my 14×11 inch mounted prints. This is because the film they use only comes in rolls large enough to make an A4-sized bag.

Instead, I currently use a cellophane bag supplied by my mount suppliers: Cotswold Mounts. I have several in stock at the moment, but I will be looking at the best options when I come to order the next round of these larger bags. All suggestions welcomed.

What is post-consumer waste?

I’ve used the term “post-consumer waste” a few times when talking about my recycled materials. But what does it mean?

Basically, it means that it has passed through the hands of the end consumer. That’s you and me. It is paper that has been made into something and sold, sent, or given to us. We then put it in the bin or – and this is the great part – we recycle it. That recycled paper is classed as “post-consumer”.

Watch this video from the Recycle Now website to find out more about the paper recycling process.

There is also a lot of really interesting information on the Eco-Craft site about recycling and sustainability in general. You can read about their environmental policy here.

Printer and printing

My work involves a fair amount of printing. My cards, art prints, and photo prints are all printed here at home. Printing is probably my biggest area of environmental impact.

I use an Epson XP-635 inkjet printer. Epson rank somewhere in the middle, in terms of their ethical standing. The Good Shopping Guide give them a score of 78 on their Ethical Company Index. Ideally, I would have chosen a Brother printer for my business. Unfortunately, having been in touch with Brother, they have confirmed that none of their printers will print on 300 gsm card. I need to be able to print on card as thick as that in order to produce my greeting cards, meaning that I was unable to choose their printers.

The Epson is a compromise printer, with a middling ethical score but with the ability to produce the products I need it to print.

On the plus side, it has five separate print cartridges (cyan, magenta, yellow, black, and photo black), which means that I only need to replace the cartridge that has run out. It is also Energy Star qualified (find out more about the Energy Star program here).

I keep an eye on my printing, as much from a business cost perspective as anything else, and I am always looking for ways to reduce my printing and the impact it is having. All ideas for environmental (and cost) efficiencies are always welcome.

Ashley House Printing

My range of Devon-inspired prints are different from previous prints I have produced, in that I have had them professionally printed by Ashley House in Exeter.

It was important to me that I chose a local company, but also one that shares a similar set of values. I am thrilled to have found this (and more) with Ashley House.

The prints themselves are printed on a recycled paper stock (250gsm), using an HP Indigo Digital Press. You can read more about the digital press and its eco credentials here.

By using a print company, I have been able to eliminate one of the things that was concerning me most about my production process: the amount of ink I was using. Yes, Ashley House are still using ink, so the problem is not entirely removed, but it is reduced. By utilising their eco friendly digital print setup, I can avoid waste and make sure that the ink impact I’m having is as small as possible.

I encourage you to have a look at their website to see the ways in which they are running their business in an environmentally-responsible way.

Art prints: cartridge paper

My mounted art prints are printed at home on my Epson XP-635 printer. They are printed onto A4 160 gsm cartridge paper made by Gerstaecker. This paper is 100% recycled and is the best (and thickest) recycled cartridge paper I have been able to source for home printing.

I believe this gives the best balance between a quality paper (which is essential in order to give a suitable quality for the final print) and one that is also 100% recycled.

My later, Devon-inspired, range of art prints have been professionally printed on recycled paper by Ashley House. Please see the Ashley House section on this page for more information.

Photo prints: photo paper

I print my photo prints at home, using my Epson XP-635 printer. I have not been able to source photo paper that is made from recycled materials. As such, I am currently using readily-available 240 gsm gloss photo paper.

I am unable to confirm the impact of using these types of paper and this is an area that causes me some concern. As such, I am phasing out these photo prints from my product list.

Mounts and mount boards

I offer mounted versions of both my art and photo prints. This takes the hassle out of purchasing a print, as you only need to buy a frame and do not need to worry about mounting your print. My mounted prints have a mount placed in front of the image and a mount board (a full-sized piece of board covering the whole of the back of the image) behind.

My mounts are supplied by Cotswold Mounts, based in Gloucestershire. This means they do not have to travel too far in order to reach me. I use Daler Rowney cream core mounts, manufactured in the UK, which have a pale cream colour to the cut edge. The boards are made from virgin wood pulp, are pH neutral and meet the Fine Art Guilds approval for standard mount board. You can see more information about the cream core mount boards on the Daler Rowney site.

I am enthusiastic about using a quality product to present my prints, however being made from virgin pulp (ie not recycled) does present some concerns. This is an area where I continue to seek better alternatives and, should I find them, I will update my supplier.

Carrier bags

If you meet me at an event – a craft fair, for example – then I will offer you a bag. Lots of people say no, and that’s great. Reusing a bag you already have with you, or not needing a bag at all, is the best answer to the “how do I carry my stuff away” conundrum.

But if you do require a bag, at least you can be reassured that it is a recycled one. I have used bags from a couple of different providers:

Eco-Craft

The supplier of many of my recycled materials, Eco-Craft’s bags are made from brown recycled paper. They are reusable and, should you need to, recyclable.

Paper Bag Co

Based in Wiltshire, their bags are made from 80 gsm recycled kraft paper. Again, they are reusable and recyclable. Find out more about the Paper Bag Co on their website.

Phones

You have to be connected to be in business. As someone selling online, I am required by UK law to provide business contact details, and this is generally understood to include a phone number, as well as a business address and email. You will find these details on my About page.

The phone

My business use is low, so I have chosen to use my existing mobile phone, rather than buy a brand new phone just for work purposes. I use a Fairphone 2, which is the market leader in terms of ethical and environmental responsibility. The Good Shopping Guide give them a score of 96 out of 100 on their Ethical Company Index.

Please read about the amazing work Fairphone are doing throughout their supply chain over on their website. I believe that they are a truly inspirational company who have their eyes open to the enormous challenge that is trying to operate ethically, as well as to the immense benefit they can bring by doing business in the right way.

Partly, this page of information is my attempt to be as open as Fairphone are about the supply chain and production methods that I use. If a one-man-band like me can make the effort to explore my impact on the environment, then why can’t all companies produce the same information? I am by no means perfect, but it is only by looking at the impact we are having that we can make improvements.

Network

I use GiffGaff, which runs on the O2 network. The same Good Shopping Guide report gives GiffGaff a score of 95 on the Ethical Company Index.

Energy

My new business is being run from our home. In terms of energy, this means I am powering my business using the same gas and electricity supplier that we use for our domestic energy.

In our case, we are supplied for both gas and electricity by Ecotricity.

The world’s first Green Electricity company:

Green Electricity didn’t exist in the world back in 1996. When we offered it for the first time, we became not just Britain’s but the world’s first Green Electricity company – and we kick-started the now global Green Electricity movement. Our mission was and remains to change the way electricity is made and used in Britain.

We chose this focus because conventional electricity is responsible for 30% of Britain’s carbon emissions – it’s our biggest single source as a nation, and therefore the biggest single thing we can change.

You can find out more about Ecotricity on their website.

It is difficult to quantify how much additional energy we are consuming as a direct result of my business, as the cost is wrapped up in our domestic energy usage. As with many businesses, I use a printer, computer, lights, and heating as part of my day-to-day activities. Devices are turned off when not in use and I aim to minimise my energy consumption. If I can identify a way of measuring (and reducing) my energy consumption, I will update this page with my progress.