Why I’m failing at going plastic free

via @Faire.Shop on Instagram

This quote has been doing the rounds on social media recently (I’m afraid I don’t know which is the original source). It made me feel a whole lot better about my own attempts at reducing my plastic consumption and being more environmentally friendly. Instagram is full of these accounts of people living entirely plastic free, eco concious lives and making it look easy. Of course it really should be. Sadly though, it’s not. It doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing anything.

BUSINESS PLASTIC SAVING SUCCESS
I touched on the fact I’m trying to get rid of plastic waste throughout the business in a previous blog post. I use card mailing boxes rather than jiffy bags, card gift boxes, biodegradable bags for greetings cards and paper bags for use at fairs.

BUSINESS PLASTIC SAVING FAILINGS
Any plastic that comes in deliveries of supplies I reuse. A few suppliers I’ve noticed, thankfully have ditched the plastic too. Let’s hope the rest follow. It’s a little frustrating when you put so much effort in, and the stack of card packaging you order arrives wrapped in plastic.

I’m waiting for the world to make a biodegradable self adhesive clear tape and I’ll be happy. I’ve switched to a paper tape for outside packaging and I’ve already enquired with a few suppliers  about clear tape and they say they are on it. I entered a debate about this on social media (something I really try not to do, on any subject) and the response I got from someone was a snide ‘Use string?’ The difficulty is, as a business and one that doesn’t make a necessity, but a luxury, I don’t want to compromise on the standards I’ve promised my customers and the plastic free swaps I make need to be of equal or better quality. I’m not going to gift wrap my items using ugly brown paper tape that completely jars with my style. I’ve perfected the art of wrapping most items now just with the aid of a paper sticker and some ribbon but some times for more complicated packages I just need a teensy bit of tape.

This is why the quote at the top really strikes a chord. The thing is, I don’t use much tape anyway. In the same way that I don’t really use plastic straws much, fly multiple times a year, or  have a daily takeaway coffee habit. Fixing these things then, is not the best place to start. What was my most wasteful area?

PLASTIC SAVING FAILINGS AT HOME
At home, the main thing I decided I needed to save on was shampoo bottles. I have loooong hair and use a lot of shampoo and conditioner. They are really thick plastic bottles with complex caps. There’s a loads of plastic in the packaging of these products and I was getting through quite a few of them. I switched to shampoo bars which are such a great idea -no plastic at all, great for travel, swim, gym (laughs, I don’t gym) and money saving too as they do last. I really really wanted to succeed with them  but failed. I tried several brands and all made my hair heavy and dirty feeling. Many manufacturers do say it can take a number of weeks for your hair to adjust. I went around with crappy feeling hair for months in the hope I’d adjust to them. I tried bicarb rinse, vinegar rinse, coconut milk – all the hints and tricks the internet provided me with. None worked. One day I got fed up of feeling yukky and picked up the shampoo bottle again. This isn’t to say don’t try them, please do and I hope they work for you.

The other biggest waste of plastic in my everyday life is food packaging. This one drives me crazy and when you live in a town with two, soon to be three, big supermarkets and no market, greengrocer etc it’s pretty hard to avoid.  I recently got an amazing haul of fruit and veg when passing through another town that cost a fraction of the shop prices and came with significantly less  – though still not zero – plastic. I wish we had a market in our town as driving somewhere in an attempt to be more eco friendly when everything I need is in walking distance is something I’m still weighing up.

Market stall fruit and veg – cheaper and less plastic waste than supermarkets

PLASTIC SAVING AT HOME SUCCESS
Back to the shampoo and happily it wasn’t all disaster in this department. The solid conditioner I’m using is brilliant even though I didn’t get on with the shampoo so I have cut my plastic in this area by 50%  Also, there are refill stations popping up all over the place where you can refill old bottles with shampoos, conditioners and other household products so this is the route I’ll be taking for these products from now on.

I’ve got into growing things recently and this is great for two reasons – of course growing your own saves on any sort of packaging vs buying it from the shops but secondly, you start you look at any vessel that might otherwise have gone in the bin at your latest quirky plant pot!

Beer Can Plant pots. Picture: Expert Home Tips via Pinterest

SHOULD WE DITCH THE TERM SINGLE-USE?
While on topic I must mention this pet hate of mine. The constant talk of single use plastics I don’t think is particularly helpful. The best thing we can do with this plastic packaging that already exists is use it again. My kitchen cupboard contains a collection of ‘single use’ plastic bottles that I’ve used over and over. I understand that the term is generally used to describe things that are intended to be thrown away but by describing them as single-use we are only emphasising to people that’s exactly what they are.

Thanks for reading. Please comment with any plastic reducing  and general tips you have for living more eco friendly. I’d love to hear them.

Finding Focus

You may have noticed that Shutter Jewellery has gone a bit leafy recently. 🌿 Here’s why.

I began making jewellery from my photographs nearly 3 and a half years ago now. I have been releasing designs as they are finished, some on a common theme, some completely randomly – images simply picked purely on their desirability and ability to work well on a tiny scale. Certain collections seemed to come together all by themselves and more often than not come from a natural rather than an urban habitat. With so much more of the natural world to explore it seems I’ve found my focus. Pun 100% intended.

What’s even better is how much you seem to love it too. My fern leaf design has been far and away my most popular as well as one of my most long lived, having first used it in costume pieces right at the beginning. This is why I’ve adopted it – or rather you lovely customers have – as the little flag for Shutter Jewellery’s new direction :

Last year’s Butterfly collection was a real eye opener at how much you value the sustainability of using a photograph and not a flower or a real butterfly while achieving the same effect. I spoke to many people who came by my stall at events last year. Many were attracted to my statement butterfly pieces and commented how beautiful they are, but with an air of caution… “They aren’t real butterflies are they?” Relieved when I explained they were not. I was amazed also that this even extended to the flower jewellery, some customers commenting that they were pleased I didn’t pick real flowers to use in my charms.*

It stands to reason that if I’m respecting nature as I am, plastic packaging is a no no. I’m so pleased that nearly every day I see an Instagram post from another business that has gone plastic free. This is no mean feat and they should be congratulated. It’s so sad that plastic is the norm and it now takes effort and cost to avoid it. For this reason it’s lot easier and quicker for small businesses to implement than large businesses but hopefully if we set the example, the big boys will follow suit and we might be able to save our natural world and give me a chance to photograph it all. 😍

I’m nearly there on the plastic free thing, I’m no longer buying plastic packaging but I recycle plastic packaging that has been used to send supplies to me. It seems the logical thing to reuse it rather that throw it away in disgust, so if you order something from me please reuse again – after all this stuff was designed to last forever. That doesn’t always have to be a problem.

My favourite bird, Rio. This is her ‘I’m a good parrot’ look. This is my ‘No you’re not’ look.

I’m currently working on a new collection based on another type of winged creature with an awesome palette of colours and patterns. You guessed it, an avian theme. I’ve been asking what your favourite feathered friends are so head over to Instagram or Facebook to join the discussion or comment below. I’ve already had some amazing suggestions.  Thank you! 💚

One more thing, I’ve recently opened my VIP mailing list, so if you want to be in the know about new items first, please do go ahead and join here. You can of course unsubscribe at any time.

 

*Of course, there are many jewellery makers who do use real butterfly wings and flowers in their work and, no, they do not go around killing butterflies and pulling up handfuls of wildflowers. I’m not trying to make a comment on anyone’s else’s work!

Why shopping small is so important to me

I’ve been a supporter of the ‘Just a Card’ campaign since hearing about it on Twitter a little while ago. The idea is to spread the word that even the smallest of purchases matter hugely to small businesses.  Whether it be a card, badge or other item that only cost a few pounds, those few pounds from everyone who walks in the door can be the difference from a shop staying open and closing forever.

R.I.P Purple & Black

Supporting of small shops is very close to my heart having built up and lost my own alternative gift shop in a very short space of time. The frustrating thing is I had a group of regular, really enthusiastic customers that completely loved what I was doing, but they didn’t act or spread the word quick enough.
A good few years on with the power of social media it’s so much easier to get the word out about great products and businesses, and, crucially, free. So if you love a shop, designer or even your local butcher, baker or candlestick maker – tell everyone and use them. Often! It might be easier for businesses to reach their customer than when I was doing it but with ever growing rent, rates and a billion other costs being thrown at them it’s tougher than ever. My partner now has a high street print and IT shop so once again, our household relies on two small businesses to keep ticking over. Will we ever learn? No. Because we love what we do.

I design and make my jewellery from my home studio and sell through a cooperative gallery, The Art Shed, online through Etsy and also through a handful of the most wonderful quirky independent shops and galleries run by amazing people. The prompt for this post came when I learned this week that one former stockist had recently closed it’s doors and another has been forced to close at the end of the month. This makes me truly sad. It makes me want to go into my local Tesco superstore and march all those people in that greeting card aisle out and down the road to their nearest independent instead!

Being part of a cooperative, I get the best of both worlds. It’s like having a little bit of my own shop again as well as an outlet to sell my work. We sell items costing £1 and items costing £1000. Sometimes I think people feel embarrassed spending just a pound or two but if I told you that some days, gift shops get through that day ONLY selling cards then you see the importance. I want to give every single customer a little hug, but don’t because that would surely guarantee I’d never see them again.

Here’s a few of the small businesses mentioned:
The Art Shed, The Medicine Garden, Cobham, Surrey.
Click, Save & Print, Walton on Thames, Surrey.

If you want to see all the amazing shops that sell Shutter Jewellery see here.
Check out the Just a Card campaign here.

And to prove this isn’t just for personal plugs, here are a few small businesses I have absolutely no affiliation with, but I’d be pretty devastated if they ceased to exist:
Pug and Puffin, Lyme Regis : Funky dog stuff
Juju, Brighton : Amazing quirky clothing
Sophie’s Chocolates, Chesham : Chocolate only for people called Sophie(!)
The Dough Shack, various locations : THE best pizza
Khao Sarn, Walton on Thames : THE best Thai
The Simon Drew Gallery, Dartmouth : My favourite illustrator, with the best puns
Pixxie Rose on Etsy : Handmade clothing in insane fabrics
RichardsonRichardson on Etsy : Acrylic jewellery (my best friend and I want about 70% of their collection between us) 
Littlehampton Exotics : Great reptile shop, of which so many have closed in the last few years
Pampered Pets, Hersham : Where my mutt gets his hair chopped.