Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Thoughts

Earth Day 2010, originally uploaded by sphuri.

There's green glow outside from trees with new foliage on Haro street. Summer has began early in Vancouver this year, before spring has completely finished saying what it has to say with its own language of flowers... While I enjoy this mild weather this year, I can't help but wonder what it has to be do with global warming, and what can we do to make this place a better home for our children and all the other plants and animals that have a right to live on this planet.

There's always something we can do better for Mother Earth. And while it's nice to have days where we can re-arrange our thoughts and weigh our actions in relation to something so big and important and crucial in our lives; this is something that requires actions everyday.

Creating all-natural, paraben and phthalate free perfumes is not enough. Awareness of endangered species and what is ethical or non-ethical to use as an ingredient is only part of the big picture.

My little company, as small as it may be, adds products and more stuff on this planet, which in the end, if I'm not careful, creates more waste. I try to change that and always make my products and my business practices better and more earth-friendly.

Business practices don't stop at the final product alone. They also pertains to how I ship and handle paperwork, waste, etc. I don't want to cover this up for you: as hard as I try, there is still lots of room for improvement.

In my business and personal practice, I try to go by the rule of reduce, reuse and recycle. That particular order is most important!

Reducing products we consume is the first and most important step in healing the planet. That means watching what we buy AND what we produce. Before I buy anything I ask myself: Do I really need this product or thing? Will it actually improve my life?
When it comes to business choices and purchases, I try to keep the shipping to minimum, by ordering supplies all at once if possible. This reduces shipping costs, and ultimately, the amount of energy and materials that go to waste to get these supplies imported to me.

However, by creating new products I'm obviously not helping in the matter, so I'm just as guilty as anyone else. But what I do differently is creating a product that is very high quality, from within and without. And I try to make my packaging durable and reusable as well. But I'll talk about this in a minute. I try to keep my output to the minimum needed, which is a challenge and always requires improvement. Essentially, there is no way of sugar coating it: as long as we make stuff, there will be more stuff. Let's just try not to make it clutter!

Now, reusing is a little easier, and in my business this is relevant to my packaging: I do my best to make sure that all of my products are refillable. This is party why I don't have spray bottles yet (these are very rare to find non-leaky unless they are crimped; which means that you will have to toss them out when you are finished with the perfume). My flacons, roll-ons and pendents are all refillable. Which is especially neat for local customers, but a little problematic for my online customers, who will have to ship the empty containers back and forth and leave another trail of packing supplies behind, not to mention the gas used for transporting those packages. But nevertheless, I insist on having that option with the design of my packaging. The same goes for the boxes - which are relatively durable and can be reused for quite sometime to protect bottles and samples and jewelry. I find them particularly great when traveling!

And as for shipping: I try to re-use shipping materials as much as possible, form all the packages I receive I always keep flattened boxes, envelopes and packing supplies to use again for my orders that I ship out. But sometimes I get stuff that is just not reusable, such as a mixture of packing popcorn and a bunch of messy shredded paper and crunched up plastic bags. Whoever sends me packages like that is obviously doing a good job of reusing their stuff, but they are making it very unpleasant for me to reuse it. I prefer to keep the packaging stuff separated by materials type. It's not only easier to pack that way, but it's also nice to at least have the option to throw the stuff to recycling. Plus, when the packing stuff is so messy that it will contaminate the product (i.e.: leave specs of paper all over the place), it's just not cool!

Recycling is, believe it or not, the last resort of being earth-friendly and considerate. The amount of energy and waste that goes into recycling any material is tremendous. In some cases it is even more wasteful than just making something new. So we really need to treat it as the last resort (although better than just throwing things into the trash!). I don't recycle much in the way of actual perfume materials, but I do have a project on the go for all the blotter strips and paper towels that are used on an ongoing basis in the studio and in classes: I'm going to turn them into fragrant paper. Very soon. I just need to collect enough stuff and build a special frame for paper-making first!

Recycling relates the most to my shipping and receiving practices. Thankfully, there are now 100% recyclable cushioned envelopes and other packing supplies that are fully recycled and can be re-recycled again. The "only" downside to those materials is that they are heavier! Which means more carbon footprint... Which is not so good. So you see: there is always something to think about. Things are not as simple as we'd like them to be, which should make us come up with better solutions, and better products to replace all the messy solutions we've created for years.



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