As we move forward, today and every day, we must consider the environmental impact we are making on our planet. In honor of Earth Day this week, I wanted to take a moment to discuss some of my favorite ways to mitigate the damage done to our environment. I have been meaning to put more of my energy out in the world (I know I always love learning more about the people who run my favorite businesses) and I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to share some of the things that make me tick.
While individual efforts are hardly a match for the pollution that’s caused on a corporate level, every little bit does add up and hopefully over time as people make smarter, more sustainable choices, the companies that pump out giant amounts of waste will take heed. Never underestimate the value of voting with your dollar! If you succeed in supporting small businesses with more sustainable business practices, it will make a huge, lasting difference - companies can ignore societal ideology, but they can’t ignore their pocketbooks.
Sustainability can present a bit of a challenge for a ceramicist because pottery production uses a lot of energy, but in the long run pottery is likely one of the more eco-friendly mediums out there. It is made from renewable materials - both the clay, and the additional minerals that make up the glazes. The art produced is long-lasting and oftentimes, functional, and it does not contribute to the buildup of other harmful materials (I’m looking at you, plastic) in our earth. Pottery doesn’t break down like other crafts can; ceramics can survive for centuries, and what eventually becomes unusable in your daily life will make its way back into the earth, becoming rock again or providing shelter for sea creatures, snails, and other small woodland creatures. Though firing kilns does require a lot of energy, I currently use a community kiln which fires large amounts of pottery at once so it doesn’t feel as “wasteful” as firing in small batches (air quotes because the only waste when it comes to art is wasted potential, i.e., art that is not made). Though, I do dream of the day when I can own and operate my own kiln and studio - hopefully operable on solar or natural gas. While the medium itself is relatively earth-friendly, one thing that isn’t is the extensive packaging that pottery requires to ship. I can’t skimp in this area, but I have made a commitment to only use recycled packing materials, which there never seems to be a shortage of. To this day (knock on wood) I’m proud to say I have never had a piece break in transit!
In my personal life, I’ve made a major adjustment this year by refusing to purchase “new” clothing. The fashion industry is one of the most detrimental to the environment - right up there with the meat and oil industries. When I finally digested that nugget of truth I resolved to shop exclusively second-hand, and while I thought it might make shopping more of a challenge, it’s actually gotten so much more fun! I’ve found some amazing pre-loved pieces, it’s generally much more affordable, and the clothes I’ve purchased have so much more meaning on an individual level because they have a tangible history. I think clothes that are already broken in are SO much cooler than brand new, and when you buy high-quality fabrics, they only get better with age and wear. Shopping secondhand was my 2019 New Year’s resolution, but I can definitely see myself doing this the rest of my life. I am now selling on Poshmark, too, so if anyone’s interested in my gently-worn (sometimes, never worn!) clothing you can check me out there!
I’ve also been examining where I can remove single-use plastics from my everyday life. We seem to have reached Peak Petroleum, and I am so concerned about our waterways and the creatures (this includes ourselves) suffering at our wasteful hands. Many of the single-use plastics we encounter are in the personal hygiene department. So many bottles! So many applicators! I found handmade solid shampoo and conditioners from a woman on Etsy - I highly recommend QUA Organic Hair Care if you’re looking to change your routine. The owner/craftswoman, Monique, is The Jam and sends great free samples as gifts with every order. Her formula is amazing, my hair looks better than it has in years (if only I’d brush it once in a while), her scents are all to die for and these giant bars last forever! My pro-tip is to cut them down so they’re more a more manageable size in the shower, and then I store the chunk that I’m not actively using in my dresser drawers so everything smells super nice.
Menstruating humans have an additional layer of wastefulness that we have to deal with on a monthly basis. The amount of period detritus that is discarded over the course of one lifetime is staggering, and it all ends up somewhere - our oceans, our beaches, in our sea life. Several years ago I ditched disposable tampons and pads in favor of a menstrual cup and Thinx (if you order through that link, we both get $10 of Thinx credit), and I’ve never looked back. While there certainly was a learning curve with the cup, it’s been way more pleasant than tampons ever were, and it’s a lot healthier both for me and for the earth! I feel good knowing that I’ve kept a lot of plastic applicators and pad liners out of the landfills, and I have saved SO much money.
All this said, there is so much more to be done! There are so many ways to help Mother Earth, and fortunately a lot of it is doable on a small scale in your every day life. Ditching takeout, shopping in bulk, skipping meat once in a while (or altogether!), patronizing farmer’s markets and all of the above are all little ways to make a big difference. What are your favorite everyday ways to help the environment?