Loving the Earth - Celebrating Earth Day 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 will mark the 45th anniversary of Earth Day.  Are you ready?

                                                       Dog Tag Necklace by  DesignsbySky  on Etsy

                                                       Dog Tag Necklace by DesignsbySky on Etsy

Earth Day, while just one day, should not be limited to the one day; it should be reflected in our daily actions. 45 years later, Earth Day should really be Earth Awareness 365 days. 

Humans are the only creatures on the planet that do not use their intelligence to halt the proliferation of waste and destruction around us.  Okay, that's a wee bit harsh. There are some humans, many humans in fact, who are doing their best to stop the killing of animals, removing trash off of streets, beaches, water sources and play grounds, composting, dumpster diving and growing gardens, etc. I'm one of those people. And I can't tell you how many times I've had a person say to me, "your recycling makes up for my lack of recycling." I always shake my head at that.  No, unfortunately, it does not. While I may not buy lots of things, and attempt to recycle as much as I can, that doesn't make up for what keeps being generated. I'm making a small dent in a larger problem.

That's where all of you come in! As we prepare for Earth Day, I'd like to make suggestions events and things you can do to brush up on your earth awareness and celebrate Earth Day. Yes, we're talking about recycling and other thought provoking and action inducing activities, but that's part of the fun of getting out and seeing all that you can do to help tackle this important issue. 

To start, here are some movies, documentaries, that you might be interested in; I doubt you'll want to watch more than once, but maybe you can screen it at your apartment with friends and family, or recommend them to friends and family.  Either way,I hope you'll help bring Earth awareness to your life and those you love every day of the year, not just April 22 every year.

Films to Consider:

"Addicted to Plastic", 2008 - Available on Netflix

A really interesting film on plastic and the role it plays in our lives. It's also a great educational film about the history of plastic. I find the guy who created the film fascinating - anyone willing to spend two years learning about anything makes me excited!

"Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch", 2013 - Available on Netflix

I recently watched this film and was sickened by the conditions of the animals after ingesting plastic because they confuse it with food. I know this seems like a lot of movies about plastic, but our culture needs to open their eyes about the use of plastic and what the convenience of it is doing to the rest of the organisms that call Earth home.

"Food, Inc", 2008 - Available on Netflix

You may have seen this movie already. It was sort of a big deal when it came out. But this movie is still my trusted go to when discussing the food industry and it's impact on the environment.  Everything we eat is wrapped in packaging that may be just as unhealthy as the products themselves. You can not discuss environmental issues without discussing food and this movie makes the case.

"Trashed", 2012 - Available on Netflix DVD, http://www.trashedfilm.com/

Jeremy Irons narrates this amazing documentary that explores the amount of trash currently circulating the planet. He also gives us a window into the effects our trash has on our bodies. It's a really interesting film.

"Waste Land", 2010 - Available on Netflix

A film about art and changing the lives of trash pickers in one of the largest landfills in Brazil. This is not a story per se about environmentalism, but it shows the lives of people one would not think about when they think of Brazil. It's a beautiful story of hope and eye opening at the same time.

Now, what do you do after you watch these films?

Maybe, you'll decrease your plastic use, or will limit your trash creation? Maybe, you'll consider recycling more, or composting your food scraps? Maybe, you'll look into ways that your City is providing alternative trash collections?

Since we're a NY area focused blog, I'd like to suggest that you check out the Earth Day Union Square event on Sunday, April 19, 2015 from 12-7PM.  Live music and kid activities will be available as well as representatives from environmental organizations and non-profits talking about their work and how you can become involved.

Alternatively, you can use Earth Month (yeah, lets just call April Earth month!), as a time to clean out your apartment/home and recycle as much as you can. Throughout the month, NYC is offering shredding, clothing drops, "Stop N Swaps" and electronics and harmful waste recycling.

NYC SAFE Disposal Events - Safely dispose of electronics and other potentially harmful household products like batteries, paint, pesticides and medicine at the NYC Department of Sanitation's NYC SAFE events this Spring. Only NYC residential waste will be accepted (no business or institutional waste permitted). Learn more and find the full schedule at www.nyc.gov/safedisposal.

Staten Island - Saturday, April 11, 10am-4pm
Midland Beach Parking Lot, Father Capodanno Blvd & Hunter Ave
(cars approach from Midland Ave)


Brooklyn - Sunday, April 19, 10am-4pm
MCU Park, Surf Ave Parking Lot
(cars approach from Surf Ave & W21 St)

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Electronics Recycling with the Lower East Side Ecology Center - Responsibly recycle unwanted or broken electronics (no appliances such as microwaves or refrigerators). Learn more and get the full spring schedule.

Saturday, April 11 - Chelsea
Sunday, April 12 - Upper West Side
Saturday, April 18 - Fort Greene
Sunday, April 19 - Bay Ridge
Sunday, April 19 - Cobble Hill
Saturday, April 25 - Flatbush
Saturday, April 25 - University Heights
Sunday, April 26 - Park Slope
Sunday, April 26 -

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NYPD Document Shredding & E-Waste Collection- College Point - Join the NYPD's Crime Prevention Section to shred your documents containing your personal/sensitive information, free!  Bring old computers, laptops, printers, LED/LCD screens (not tube screen), keyboards, mice, cables, cell phones and tablets to recycle.  All working devices received will include free data destruction services. 

Sunday, April 12, 10am-1pm
College Point Retail Center (main parking lot across from Target)
134-15 20th Ave, Queens (flier)

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April Stop 'N' Swap® Schedule - Bring clean, reusable, portable items such as clothing, housewares, games, books, & toys that you no longer need, and take home something new-to-you, free. You don't have to bring something to take something. No furniture or large items, please.  Learn more.

Saturday, April 18 - Glendale
12pm-3pm, The Shops at Atlas Park, 80-00 Cooper Ave, Queens (map)  

Sunday, April 19 - Chinatown
12pm-3pm, Two Bridges, 82 Rutgers Slip, Manhattan (map)

Thursday, April 23 - Brooklyn Borough Hall
12pm-3pm, 209 Joralemon Street (map)  
*Commuter drop-off available from 8am-12pm at the Greenmarket

Saturday, April 25 - Westchester Square
12pm-3pm, 2551 Westchester Ave, Bronx (map)

Sunday, April 26 - Forest Hills
12pm-3pm, Central Queens Y, 67-09 108th St, Queens (map)  

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Chinatown Earth Day Clothing Collection* - Clothing and textiles represent nearly 6% of NYC's waste. GrowNYC's Office of Recycling Outreach and Education will be partnering up with Chinatown Partnership and the Chinatown Business Improvement District (BID) for a one-day-only pop-up clothing collection at the  2015 Earth Day Chinatown Goes Green!  Bring clean and dry clothing, paired shoes, linens, handbags, belts, and other reusable textiles and we'll keep them out of the landfill. (No scraps, rugs, carpeting, pillows, comforters, or luggage.)

Sunday, April 19, 10am-4pm
Kimlau Square, Park Row, Manhattan (map)

*If you're unable to make this event, the Union Square Farmers Market has a clothing collection tent on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday every week. They usually leave by 4pm and they can provide you a receipt for tax benefits!

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AND there's always composting, but I'll save composting for my next post. This is already long enough! 

If you're not a NY City resident, I highly recommend you go to your City or Town's website (or call your Mayor's office) and see what they offer. If they don't offer anything, maybe you can see about helping start a program that tackles environmental issues? If they do have programming already, maybe you can join and become part of your community?

Watching documentaries, no matter how educational and enlightening, does not do much unless you follow up with action. Hopefully, this helps put you on a path you're comfortable with and will lead you to becoming part of the solution this Earth Day. (Month and Year! (every year!))

Happy celebrating Earth Day fellow earthlings.

Sara of  S2 Stationery & Design
 

 

"It Starts With You..." - Initial Thoughts On The 2013 Hello Etsy Conference

Hi Readers! It's been quite a while since you've heard from me. I'll get into the why I've been absent at a later time (aka future posts), but for now, I want to come back to the Etsy New York Team Blog with thoughts on the most recent Hello Etsy conference held at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York the weekend of March 22-24, 2013.

Image by Etsy

Two years ago, I covered the first Hello Etsy New York Event. I shared what I thought were the key tips from one session. This time around, I need to put out a full series of posts because the weekend in it's entirety was mind blowing!

This year's Hello Etsy conference was completely different from the first one I attended. Two year's ago it was a smaller spin off of the huge event held in Berlin, Germany. I can't write about the Berlin event, but I can tell you that where as there were maybe 40 of us in the Etsy Labs that September day, there were now hundreds of us walking across the campus of Pratt Institute.  The speakers at the event two years ago were interesting, large personalities from local communities across America, and they were a great way to introduce the concept of sustainability to "Etsypreneurs."   The line up of speakers alone at the 2013 Conference shows just how different of a ball game Hello Etsy has become and will continue to evolve as Etsy takes it's shift into a socially aware and responsible company serious.

Last year, I reflected on Etsy's announcement of becoming a certified B-Corp on this blog and talked about what it means for Etsypreneurs.  I talked about how great it was to see Etsy moving in this direction. To be quite honest, it brought me to tears. My business lives because of the hope of Etsy. My world depends on a clean and healthy environment. If Etsy is going to pave that path that I'm walking for me, then I'm going to walk along it and help them as much as I can.  Which is why two years later, even though I wasn't overwhelming impressed with the first Hello Etsy Conference in 2011, I spent $85 on a ticket as soon as the event was announced.

I talked to quite a few different people at the conference and was amazed by the assortment of people in attendance. There were Pratt design students, Etsy staff, team members from Etsy New York, and then a whole host of different level Etsy sellers. I was a bit shocked at first by the amount of new sellers that were hoping to learn something new for the event. Then I realized that while they may not get what they were hoping for, they'd get something a bit different, and hopefully eye opening to starting their business.

For those of you who don't know, I spent almost five years working in a corporate communications department that focused on environmental/sustainable/corporate social responsibility (CSR) and I learned a lot. It is why I laid down the foundation of environmental friendliness, concern, social giving and education at the beginning of my business dreaming and planning.  It is why I love that Etsy is taking the steps to share this path with all of their community, not just the sellers, but the buyers, the government (have you seen how Etsy has teamed up with the entire town and Mayor of Rockland, Illinois on craft entrepreneurship?), leaders in the environmental, technical, and social change worlds.

There is a firm, but fine line between setting up a business from the beginning with deeply rooted mission for change and responsibility, not just socially and environmentally, but on good business practices such as ethics and morals, and a business that does it after the fact. Yes, it is better to be "in" than to be out, but you have a much harder time understanding your focus if you switch it years down the line. Not to mention, you have to then prove and become credible to your followers, fans, and customers once the change takes place.

Now, I'm not saying this is improbable, because it isn't, but it takes a lot of commitment and hard work. No matter how many good intentions we have, in order to change our communities and even our own ideas and practices, we have to walk the walk-we have to take actions that lead the way and show others that it is possible and that there is hope. 

That is the key to what I took from this year's Hello Etsy conference: "It starts with you and it starts small, but from those small steps anything is possible and will happen."

Everyone who got on the stage to present gushed about Etsy. They talked about all the great things about Etsy and how they see it as one of the greatest tools of change that's come about in the last few years.

You are part of that.

They mentioned how we're now able to laterally connect and share our work and make livings that have nothing to do with the current business structure, but have everything to do with our humanness and the connections we build and create together.  They are absolutely correct. When I think about some of the sales I've made to people as far as Australia, I am floored that my little box, that I use to type this post now, connected me to that person and to the person she gave my item to.  It is life changing!

In my next few posts, I'm going to delve into presentations full on. I think it's worth sharing for those of you who didn't/couldn't attend the conference. Each presentation had a different topic, had different leaders weighing in on that topic, and were so varied that I want to share.

Until my next post, please leave your thoughts in the comments. If you attended the conference, what did you think? What do you think about Etsy's shift into the sustainable movement? Do you have any concerns for your shop or business? Please ask and share below. I'm excited to hear your thoughts. Not to mention, we need to continue this conversation!

What are B Corps? Why Do We Need Stuff?

In my last post, readers, I reflected on Earth Day and sustainable small businesses and our own businesses. It was a lot to read, kind of heavy, I know. Today is going to be a bit along those lines, but I'm going to share two big things, that combined, relate to sustainable small businesses.

Please note that when I use the word sustainable, I use it a la Merriam-Webster definition
a : of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged <sustainable techniques> <sustainable agriculture>  
b : of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods <sustainable society>. 

The first thing, which is the second question in the title, "Why Do We Need Stuff?" comes from Megan Auman, of Designing an MBA. In the last month she launched a site called Understanding Objects and is all about changing the perception that the world doesn't need more stuff, it needs YOUR stuff. 

Hardly a mind-blowing concept here, but as an artist, I've struggled too with the idea that there are already so many stationery companies out there, why does the world need my stationery? Or better yet, I've tried to build a business based on a Toyota business model where I buy only what I need when I need it to avoid having too much stuff around. To have another artist out there, trying to repair our concept of "stuff", especially in relation to our own art, it's encouraging. It reminds me that there is a place for my art and my stuff, it's just a matter of placing the correct value on the stuff we buy and sell to others.  

The second thing, is that yesterday, Etsy announced their certification as a B Corporation. This point answers the first question, "What Is A B Corporation?"  I encourage you all to read the article about Etsy joining the B Corporation Movement and what it means as an artist and seller on Etsy. It's some incredible stuff, let me tell you! 

But I want to talk about what it means for us, Etsy sellers, a bit and also what it means for our readers on this blog that are buyers and lovers of the New York Etsy Team.  

As, I've discussed many times, what I do personally to run a sustainable business- I run a non-certified sustainable corporation. That's right, I've taken my personal feelings and actions and have allowed them to determine how to run and operate my business. I think it's a logical step for any small business just starting up and one-artist show. However, when a largish company like Etsy takes the steps to become a certified B Corporation, it means they are opening themselves to being questioned regularly about their sustainable business practices and are open to follow a set of guidelines and metric systems that determine whether they are practicing sustainable business standards not just on local, environmental, and employee issues, but globally, as well.  Companies already established as B Corporations are Patagonia and Seventh Generation.

So what about you, artist and small business owner? What does Etsy becoming a certified B Corp mean for you? 

Well nothing yet. You don't have to rush out and do anything, but you should be aware that Etsy is interested in practicing good business for itself, and you. This also means that Etsy's hopes to influence others businesses to start practicing sustainability. It was in large part what Hello Etsy in Berlin (which I covered last year) was all about-how can large and small businesses make an impact for the good of the environment, irreplaceable resources, and humanity?

These are tough questions. After all, who doesn't want to make money? People go into business for a variety of reasons, but most often to make money.  Etsy's decision means that now they want to help small businesses keep making money AND make business decisions that don't hurt humans, or the environment.

I don't believe that many of us small businesses are capable of paying to go through the rigorous process of becoming a B-Corporation yet, but I think it's a great thing to aspire to. I also think it's something that can be started small just by using the tools in the NYC area:
  • composting your produce and coffee bean scraps (Etsy does it!)
  • riding your bike, or taking public transportation instead of driving
  • recycling even the smallest piece of paper
  • carrying our own bags when shopping to avoid taking new bags, or even just collecting all of your plastic bags and then recycling them in the bins specific for plastic bags
  • turning your paper bags into envelopes (I did a tutorial you can see here)
  • recycling your #5 plastic containers (mostly the stuff that holds your yogurt) at Whole Foods Stores
  • Reuse magazine pages to stuff your packages when mailing
  • Reuse boxes, when shipping mail (yes branding matters, but you can do a lot if you state your case beforehand)
The list goes on, and all it requires you to do is to look around you for the resources, until you are large enough and can become a B Corporation of your own.

And for buyers, what does this mean for you? 

Well, it means that you know and have a better idea of the type of business you are purchasing from. I don't want to imply that all businesses are bad businesses, because they are not. However, now those individuals that are concerned with the state of environmental affairs and want to start buying stuff that has value and meaning (Go Megan!), know that you're shopping on a site that is practicing sustainable business and is encouraging their members to practice the same, and they will feel better about their purchases and will put a higher value on them knowing that they are making an impact on the greater world.

Lastly, for artists, buyers and Etsy Small Businesses in NYC, I encourage you to check out Goodnik. Goodnik is an organization that helps social entrepreneurs whether they are in the for-profit or not-for-profit or aspiring B Corporation sectors. They are a great resource just for learning more about this topic.

Let us do more good business!


Sara//
S2 Stationery and Design