Crafting Ethical and Sustainable Products: A Guide for Artisans

Being more sustainable in your craft helps lay the groundwork for long-term growth and success. Not only do greener business practices often make good financial sense, but they attract customers who are keen to support eco-friendly makers.

Works created by hand are often far more ethical and sustainable than those produced on large-scale manufacturing lines. However, even small businesses leave an ecological and social footprint. This guide will explore some of the ways we can incorporate responsible business practices into our production processes and contribute towards a better future.

  1. Using responsibly sourced materials 

Even as business owners, we are consumers. When sourcing crafting materials, it’s important to make choices that represent your brand’s ethical and sustainable standards.

There is no single approach to selecting suppliers to buy from, and the level of choice you have will vary depending on the type of products you are creating. We recommend that you consider which qualities are most important to you and your business and search for distributors who meet these requirements.

What makes a ‘good’ supplier? Here, we’ve listed some of the factors you might want to consider when buying materials and equipment:

  • Does the supplier openly and transparently share information about the working conditions of their employees, how and where they source their raw materials, and the steps they’re taking to mitigate their environmental impact? The greater the detail given, the better. Some companies will even employ external inspectors to certify the safety of their employees and the fulfilment of environmental regulations.
  • Do the materials the supplier provides hold any environmental or ethical certifications? For example: GOTS certifications, FSC certifications, the FAIRTRADE mark or Ecocert.
  • Does the supplier prioritise sustainable, eco-friendly, and ethical manufacturing at every stage of production? For instance, by using organic or Fairtrade materials, incorporating zero-waste manufacturing methods or using recycled materials.
  • Does the supplier have a proven history of environmentally and socially conscious business practices, and/ or a continued and sincere effort to improve their shortcomings?

Making the best possible choices when selecting suppliers will not only draw the interest of socially and environmentally conscious consumers, but it may help you to protect your business’ reputation long-term. As shoppers become increasingly aware of the impact their choices make on the world around us, it’s crucial to maintain their trust by sourcing your materials from responsible and transparent manufacturers.

  1. Saving energy, water, and materials

One of the easiest ways to reduce your environmental impact is to be mindful of the energy, water, and materials you use when manufacturing your products. By conserving these resources, we are not only safeguarding the environment, but we are protecting both the current and future generations from further material inequality and poverty.

Whilst there are countless ways to conserve these resources at little to no cost to your business, we’ve included some examples of some of the measures you might take here:

  • Turning off any powered equipment when not in use
  • Disposing of waste appropriately (e.g., sorting recyclable waste from non-recyclable waste)
  • Being mindful of water consumption – for instance, when cleaning tools after use or when using paints
  • Implementing zero-waste design methods
  • Sourcing materials from low-waste providers
  • Keeping product packaging minimal
  • Giving new life to second-hand materials and saving offcuts for future projects.

Many customers on our site are seeking products from businesses that take a mindful approach to manufacturing. It’s worth showcasing your efforts by sharing how you incorporate low-waste manufacturing techniques in your product descriptions.

  1. Using Eco-friendly packaging

Conventional packing materials like bubble wrap, mailing bags, polystyrene blocks, and packing peanuts are often made with plastic. Many of these cannot be recycled and take up to 1,000 years to degrade when discarded.

Luckily, there are many eco-friendly alternatives to choose from that have a lower environmental impact – without compromising on security and affordability.

Recycled and recyclable Materials

Harvesting and processing raw materials for plastic or paper-based supplies requires a lot of energy and has a considerable impact on the environment. By using recycled packaging, we can extend the life of existing materials and divert waste away from our landfills.

Biodegradable or compostable materials

Unlike conventional plastics, biodegradable packaging is designed to naturally decompose without creating toxic pollutants and damaging ecosystems. Typically created using paper, bioplastics, or vegetable starches, this type of packaging is a greener alternative to waterproof mailers.

Eco-friendly Fillers

As polystyrene blocks and packing peanuts break down, they become lightweight microplastics which travel easily and cause damage to delicate ecosystems. Thankfully, there are many alternatives on the market that are biodegradable or recyclable. Some examples include:

  • Recycled foam
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Sugarcane-based packing peanuts
  • Shredded paper/ card
  • Mushroom-based blocks
  • Coconut husk

Moving towards a kinder future

Artisans are at the forefront of sustainable and ethical commerce. It’s exciting to see so many handmade business owners taking responsibility for the environmental and social impact of their work. We’re proud to be co-creating a community fostering meaningful change within the retail sector with you, our talented makers.