Shannon here. Keiden and I make things to sell and cuz it's really, really fun. We make art, we make jewelery, and we make clothing. I have been dyeing clothing for many years.
Not long ago, Keiden told me it took about 70 gallons of water to make a t-shirt. I looked into it, and the number is closer to 659 gallons.* I started looking at my beloved craft and really thinking about what kinds of raw materials I used and the environmental impact of my work. Starting last winter, we started buying gently used clothing from thrift stores for dyeing. In a lot of ways, it has helped lower overhead costs while expanding our art. In buying second hand clothing, we can afford to get jeans, dresses, and all kinds of clothing to dye that I never really got to work with due to cost. In buying and using second hand clothing we are not directly giving money to companies that use underpaid labor to make clothing. We are not paying for new items that cost so much in water and energy to produce. There are still some items we buy new (I will always use new knickers!), but this has been a huge shift for our work. I am working on adapting dye and wash methods to cut down on the water used for dyeing and have seen vast improvements.
It is not just the clothing where we have made a shift with our supply and production methods. A lot of the metal Keiden uses for blacksmithing is found and scrap metal given or collected over the years. Most of the wood we are using comes from downed branches or branches cut when Keiden or I are doing yard work to help someone. We have worked with a lot of semi-precious stones, but have made a conscious decision to use the supplies of stones we have on hand and to work with other materials in the future that don't rely on questionable mining and labor practices that hurt the earth or its people.
Is our work having an environmental impact? It is. Are we working to lower that impact? Yes! We are continually learning new ways to lower our impact in our production methods. We are finding and using more second hand or refuse materials to make our creations. When we do buy new materials, we look at the supplier's policies and practices involving both the environment and the fair wages and working conditions for those who produce the raw goods we use. All of the changes we are making are helping us become a more conscious small business, putting our money and our art where our values are and doing our small part to always do better!
The photo above is our family wearing our thrift store bought and re-dyed clothing.
*links to research about t-shirt production and maintenence regarding water/energy consumption
A video on how a t-shirt is made and the impact on the earth and people involved in the process put out by Ted Talks education