Both eco crayons and natural eco paints are sustainably handmade, the packaging is eco-friendly and my products are compostable…but these are the ‘visible’ things that people hear about and see.
Part of my mission as a small business owner and operator is to look at the bigger picture and modify my actions constantly to be more sustainable, have a smaller carbon footprint and model to others that there is much more to being 'eco-friendly' than the products that what we offer to the public.
So here are some of the sustainable business practices that I employ behind the scenes …
1. Buying locally manufactured raw materials and consumables, where possible
This makes a massive difference to the environment because shipping in this vast country contributes significantly to carbon emissions. I source as many products as possible in SA or Australia, the closer to home the better. Making choices to purchase from local businesses often means that I pay a little extra but there are less travel kilometres, and I am supporting another family and the local workforce. I ask for my orders of raw materials to be packed in paper bags - think of the hundreds of kilos of botanicals that I go through a year – and I switch suppliers if I find others that use more sustainable packaging. I only use shipping services with 100% carbon offset or carbon neutral programs. We get refills of cleaning products, hand soap and sanitiser from our local health food store, and we get Who Gives a Crap loo paper delivered.
2. Eco-friendly packaging
If you have ever received an order from Eco Crayons you might ask yourself, "What is inside this thing that looks like a dogs’ breakfast?". This is because I upcycle existing packaging to pack my orders, regardless of if they are retail or wholesale orders. My family, friends and neighbours ‘save’ boxes for me because the amount of energy that goes in to manufacturing a single use cardboard box is ridiculous and on top of this the energy used to recycle that perfectly good box is nuts. I use cornstarch peanuts for internal packaging in crayons, biodegradable cello bags, landfill biodegradable tape, unlaminated boxes for my products, FSC approved spoons, timber and stirrers in my paint kits. Honestly, how many companies do you know of that offer a biodegradable and compostable art kit, except for one component?
3. Rubbish disposal
Each year I manufacture 10000+ crayons and a minimum of 500kg of paint and I do not have a landfill bin! Yes, you read that correctly. I refuse to purchase or use anything at Eco Crayons that cannot be composted or recycled. One of the traps that we have fallen in to as a society is that notion of, “It’s ok, I can recycle it”, and we know that recycling processes are problematic in Australia, not to mention the energy consumption used to then recycle single use products. I reuse things until their death if components need to be recycled. Of course, all of this takes extra time and thought but I am choosing to model to my children, community and on wider platforms that if a small business can incorporate sustainable and eco-friendly practices then larger businesses and corporations should be held more accountable too. I redcycle soft plastic, get my ink cartridges refilled, recharge batteries, and upcycle boxes and void fill.
4. Energy consumption and water usage
Get ready for it…I run a 3-person household and business on the same energy consumption as a 1-person household. If that doesn’t scream sustainability then I don’t know what does! I use equipment that does not draw huge wattage, but gets the job done, which can be tricky when heat is needed to melt wax and run grinders. One of the other things that I ensured when designing and building my studio was that I had a sustainable water source. I used double boilers and approximately 100 litres of water each week. My water comes from a gravity fed water system that I designed. All my storm water from our house and studio is caught, filtered and stored in tanks and is then piped into my studio sink through a gravity fed system so that I don’t need to pump water and the overflow waters my veggie garden.
5. Challenging the business practices of others
This might sound like I am being all ‘judgy judgy’ however I believe that having open and transparent conversations about how myself and others can operate green businesses is really healthy. It really irks me when I receive goods with those puffy plastic space void things, so I politely email the company who used them and let them know about alternatives, for example honeycomb paper.
Recently an offshore manufacturer advised that they would be packing my shipment of custom art smocks in INDIVIDUAL poly bags. I negotiated that they would use a poly liner in a box of 50 and bulk package them. It doesn’t sound like much but these kinds of actions that I take add up over time.
I guess that I just wanted to share that there are alternative ways of doing business that are more sustainable than others. I am by no means an expert and am constantly making greener choices and changes to by work environment and manufacturing processes, but I think I am doing some things right – Naomi x