Celebrating Earth Day: An Eco-Friendly Life + Small Business

Earth Day, Every Day

Happy Earth Day! I thought it would be the perfect time to talk a little bit about how I try to bring Earth Day into my every day life and small business. It’s been on my mind lately because my experiences in the area of recycling and sustainability between Germany and the US are so different!

These topics have always been important to me, I love that I’m finally able to live somewhere that has an eco-friendly consciousness built into daily life. I’m also  really excited to talk a little bit about how it’s been built into my small jewelry business over the years.

Different Everywhere

I’ve lived in a lot of US cities, including Chicago, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Portland. In all that time, I noticed that the effort put into recycling can be really different depending on where you are. In some cities, it felt like part of the culture and in other cities it felt a bit like an afterthought. In my experience, the West Coast, and particularly the Pacific Northwest were great for recycling while the Southwest and Midwest left a lot to be desired.

Recycling is so different here in Germany, and it makes me wish it were this easy everywhere else.

Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better. - Albert Einstein

You Gotta Keep ‘Em Separated

In a lot of US cities, most consumers don’t need to separate recycling, which can lead to issues in the long run. This can reduce the quality of recycled goods, and in many cases it will get send to a landfill as a result. The last couple years I was in Chicago, I remember this coming up quite a bit.

On the other hand, recycling in Germany appears to be more ingrained in the culture and reminds me of the attitude in cities like Portland or San Francisco, but on a national scale. Every grocery store has a place to return glass and plastic bottles in exchange for a deposit which can be redeemed at checkout. I’ve lived in a few different buildings, and the recycling options are all very similar. Everything is recycled separately including glass (which is separated by color and there are spots all over the place for convenient drop off), cardboard boxes, light paper packaging and paper, aluminum, and virtually all plastic packaging can be recycled. Not only that, some buildings even have compost.

Every week, I only take out one small bag of actual trash, and the rest is recycled. Compared to anywhere I’ve lived in the US, that’s completely astounding.

ZKD’s Environmental Commitment

I want my customers to feel good about their purchase, and I embrace various environmentally friendly and sustainable practices into my  business as possible:

  • Precious Metals: The precious metal wire used to make components like ear wires and links is sourced from vendors that use reclaimed and recycled metals. The cycle continues as I work – scraps are saved and sent back to be recycled.
  • Pearls + Shells: I love working with pearls and shell beads. Virtually all pearls are cultured, which means they need to “grow”. This happens on pearls farms, and I’m happy to say that the modern pearl farming industry is largely environmentally friendly and sustainable.
  • Gemstones: It’s not always possible to know the exact origins of each gemstone, but I do my best to educate myself about the stones I use and  work with suppliers that are knowledgeable about where their products come from.
  • Branding: Business cards, jewelry cards and tags are printing using environmentally friendly printing technologies. Each item is made from a combination of sustainably sourced trees and 100% post-consumer material.
  • Room for Improvement: I’m always looking to improve my ecological footprint in any way that I can, and re-evaluate my workflow regularly.

Lots of little packages from Zurina Ketola Designs

ZKD’s Eco-Friendly Packaging

I’m committed to using sustainable, environmentally friendly packaging that is recyclable or reusable, and I make my packaging choices with this in mind. Whenever possible, I’ll reuse items like packing paper and bubble wrap from supplier shipments. Below is a list all the packaging that goes into selling to shipping your ZKD jewelry:

  • Jewelry Boxes | Made primarily of recycled material (color paper is 100%  recycled material; box is 90% recycled material) and recyclable *
  • Cotton Linen Bags | Both sustainably sourced and compostable *
  • Small Paper Jewelry Envelope | Reusable and recyclable *
  • Air Tight Plastic Bag | Reusable *
  • Small Flat Paper Bag | Reusable and recyclable *
  • Invoice | Made from recycled paper; recyclable.
  • Packing Paper / Bubble Wrap | Made from recycled material or reused from supplier shipments. Can be recycled or reused *
  • Cardboard Box / Envelope (shipping) | Made from recycled materials; recyclable *

* Reusing ZKD Packaging as Jewelry Storage

I recommend making use of the packaging each piece of handmade jewelry is received in, and have included storage accessories to help your jewelry looking new. Each jewelry box includes a layer of anti-tarnish fill and an air-tight plastic bag, and each linen bag includes an air-tight plastic bag. Both are perfect for jewelry organization and storage!

Reusing Plastic Bags

I’ve tried a million options for jewelry storage, and always come back to using and reusing the small, air-tight plastic bags for jewelry storage. Nothing does a better job keeping jewelry looking new. While they may not be the most Instagram-worthy way to store your jewelry, they are reusable and will protect your handmade jewelry from the elements that contribute to tarnishing.

Since they’re small enough to fit in a wallet, I’ve noticed that they make travelling with jewelry a breeze. I always have a small pouch set aside and throw a few pieces in before I head off on a trip. Whether you have big travel plans or are heading off to the gym before work, it’s compact and keeps the jewels organized.

I’m still searching for the perfect interchangeable jewelry storage system that marries beautiful design with functionality, and sustainability. When I find it, you’ll be the first to know!

Do You Have Any Tips or Suggestions?

Do you have any suggestions? I’d love to hear them! Please comment below or contact me.

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