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Small Business in a Dying Climate: Making Ethical Choices

Olive and Brown Leather Feather Aquamarine Earrings | faerwear

It’s funny how your site stats can reflect your mood. When you have a huge interest and focus on sustainability, repurposing, and ethical choices and means of production and suddenly, you’re faced with a president-elect who is not interested in the slightest, feeling of fear and futility can set in fast. My stats, which have been steadily increasing since I quietly launched this site, tanked after the “election”.

examining my life

It’s fine though, I am moving quickly away from a fear-based mindset and examining where I can make a difference while still feeding my family. In order to make a living and communicate with far-away family, I make use of electronics manufactured in China, and I live rural in the mountains and drive a 14 year old AWD Subaru that isn’t so efficient on gas (but it’s still in very good shape, it’s safe for my family and works well in snow, which we get over here – and honestly? I can’t afford a new car anyway). My rental cabin is heated with kerosene. While we have a garden (and all the challenges, for me, anyway, of growing in a rapidly-changing alpine climate), I still drive 30 minutes for affordable groceries. It was way easier when I lived in the city, to be honest, at least when it came to walking and riding a bike everywhere and fast access to everything – but was it a fair tradeoff for lung damage, dirty water and noise pollution? Or my personal sanity? Crowds give me immense amounts of anxiety.

It will take me a bit to find my place in this new America and figure out how I will move forward – as a parent, as a business owner, and as an eco-warrior. Protection of our environment insures our survival more than any “job” ever will. The earth has seen many civilizations come and go.

examining my livelihood

I have put even more focus on my supply chain in recent days. Obviously, I stick with repurposed leather, suede and ultrasuede – basically, if it’s headed to a landfill, lemme see it first please. I will never buy new leathers for my work.

The silver and 14k gold-filled wire that I use for my hoops is all from renewable, recycled, and sustainable sources (if you’re interested in locating a source for yourself, spend some time on Ethical Metalsmiths). The copper and brass wire I’ve been using has also been with me for over a decade, and I’ve still got a pretty decent supply left to use up, after which time I either re-source ethically, or rethink my style. Having briefly lived in southwestern New Mexico, I have seen first-hand what kind of devastation mining can wage on people and environment.

My earring cards are made on 100% recycled paper, printed with soy inks and made in Arizona by a small business (work-at-home mom!). I love telling my customers that if they don’t plan on using the cards to hang their earrings, pass it on as a business card – because right now, I haven’t printed business cards. It’s an expense I can’t afford if I want to do it ethically and besides, snapping a pic with your phone for later? that’s easy too.

I will eventually run out of beads, too. I am sure that the working conditions and environmental impact that many of the imported gemstone beads I purchased in the New York jewelry district all those years ago didn’t have the standards I’d approve of now that I know better. I’ve got feelers out for suppliers who can guarantee an ethical production chain, and I do welcome any suggestions in this department (and yes, of course I spend a lot of time looking around in thrift shops for things to re-use).

It is all a process! In the meantime, I’m doing what I can, and I’m trying even harder now. This is the kind of thing that those of us who care are going to have to do even more, starting now. At this time of writing, we’ve got a president-elect who promises to create some real havoc environmentally – it’s not a priority for him, or for many of the people who want him in office. For those of us in which this is a big priority? Dig deep, y’all. Even the smallest details and changes are more important now.