TLDR? skip straight to the resource list HERE
In December 2019, an Instagram post by illustration Studio Peppermint Lines raised the issue of nature-based artists offering vinyl stickers. While it’s a huge market, it’s contributing to the proliferation of microplastics choking our water and affecting wildlife worldwide. It really resonated with me, as someone who tries to think carefully about my personal choices, whether it’s composting our food waste, bringing my own cloth bags to the grocery store, or finding ways to reduce the use of plastic in my home. In 2020, my desire is to extend this thoughtfulness to my business, reducing the use of plastic in what I make and sell, and shrinking my carbon footprint as much as possible. While individuals can make only a very small drop in the bucket, so to speak, I believe that helping to raise awareness, set an example, and by mass action shift the demand for more sustainable products, we can bring about change. We all have a part to play in making a difference in mitigating the climate crisis and making this a more livable planet for our children and beyond.
As I talked with other artists, I found many eager to hear about resources for products, packaging, etc. to help them in their own quest to reduce the environmental impact of their businesses. So here is some information on some companies and products that align with those goals. I’ve tried to steer clear of anyone who seems to be “greenwashing” – using eco-consciousness to sell a product rather than providing a real solution or consistently sustainable product. This is not a comprehensive list, and I have not personally tried all these products, so please follow through with your own research. I’ve got some notes on many of the companies below, but if you prefer not to read through and get right to a full list, you can access a Google Sheet with everything HERE. And if you have a suggestion for a company that is not on this list, please send me an email and let me know!
FinerWorks, a printer I’ve worked with for a couple of years now, produces high-quality artist prints on a number of papers. While I don’t know much about their ink or overall company priorities, they have begun to offer printing on Hemp, Bamboo, and Agave papers. I plan to get some test prints in the near future. The print quality has always been impressive, and they can integrate and/or drop ship directly to your customers if you sell through online platforms like Etsy. You can also look for print shops that use soy-based inks, though I have not done the research on the archival qualities/lightfastness of these products.
For things like greeting cards, brochures/collateral for yourself or clients, etc., many large online printers offer recycled or FSC Certified options. I’m a fan of Jakprints, but specialty printers like Greener Printer have popped up as well.
We all love stickers, but vinyl/PVC is a huge part of the microplastics problem worldwide. There are many, many printers now offering eco-friendly labels in precut shapes (circle, oval, rectangle, etc.) but far fewer offering die-cut stickers. StickerApp and Sticker Giant offer kraft paper stickers, Zap Creative in the UK offers responsibly sourced, recyclable stickers, and Dust City Designs and Rockin Stickers offer unique wooden stickers. Another option I’m hoping to see more of in the future is BioStone — if you’ve never seen it, it’s a smooth, durable paper-like material made from, you guessed it, stone. Lightning Labels currently offers this material for labels (no die-cuts). There are lots of other label printers listed in the resource sheet.
I love a nice cotton tote. Even large online printers like Zoo Printing are now offering full-color printed cotton totes priced to re-sell to your customers. I use Printful for printing and fulfillment of several items for my Etsy shop, and they have a really nice organic cotton tote that they keep running out of stock on. Check their website periodically to see if it’s available. Envirotote is another great company with a wide range of options, including some made from recycled plastic bottles.
SHIPPING AND PACKING SUPPLIES
Re-using supplies is a great idea, but if you want consistent packaging and branding, here are a few options.
For those of you who sell prints and like them in a nice clear sleeve, Clear Bags has a compostable option. While on the one hand, compostable products can still end up in a landfill if they aren’t, you know, composted, there’s also the benefit of no plastic production in their manufacture. Still a step up even if we don’t all yet have a pile of decomposing organic matter in our home or yard or access to municipal composting facilities.
FABRIC AND WALLPAPER
Spoonflower, if you aren’t already aware of them, prints custom fabric and wallpaper using ethically-sourced materials, environmentally friendly print processes and inks, and has a minimal-waste approach to their company. Whether you like to design for fabric or buy yardage for your own projects, this site is a treasure-trove of amazing designs, and hosts weekly design challenges to get your creative juices flowing. Artist-friendly policies and great customer service make them one of my favorite print-on-demand companies to work with.
I try to think about everything I use in my home, reducing my use of things like plastic bags, plastic leftover containers, and plastic office supplies. I recently bought a phone case from Pela Case, and I love it – it’s beautiful, durable, protects my phone, and is made of a compostable material instead of plastic!
A company to check out for outfitting your home and office is Net Zero Company
Thank you for reading this and for starting to think about how you can make some simple changes to positively impact your footprint on the planet. And again, if you come across a great company, or have one you’ve used that you love, please get in touch and I’ll add it to the resource list.