A Creative Business's Guide to Ethical Production Partners

When's the last time you've checked in with yourself about the environmental impact of your small business's production partners? It's 2020, and this is not something we should be ignoring.

If there is one thing, besides my own self-doubts and fears, that keeps me from making new products or taking certain steps forward to grow my business, it's my own hyper-awareness of the environmental impact of my choices when it comes to production.

It's been a little over a year since I've been working on Freckled Fuchsia full-time, and as we dive into the new year, and new decade, I can't help but think about and reflect upon my own environmental and social responsibilties as a creative business owner.

​Whether you already own your own business, or you're thinking about starting one in the future, it is absolutely crucial to consider the impact that your business is making/will make from an environmental and social lens, especially if you're producing physical products. This is not to say that what I'm doing is perfect, but I am proud of the conscious practices that I've already implemented within my first year. However, I realize that there are other habits and practices to improve upon, and I'm actively looking into alternative ways that I can build a more sustainable business and product line for the years to come.

When you're first starting out, it can be difficult to find production partners that are genuine, and that will share the same environmental and ethical values as you do. Also, the internet is crowded with greenwashing, and I've taken the time to weed through the bullsh*t.

Instead of Keeping my Resources Private, I Want to Share Them with You.

​Below, I've created a transparent resource of my own production partners that value ethical work environments, earth-friendly and recyclable materials, high quality products, and socially conscious missions. This resource includes the partners that I use for business cards, stickers, art prints, screen printing, belly bands, and mailers.

1. Business Cards

Resource - https://www.moo.com/us/business-cards/cotton

Since day one, I've been using Moo to print my traditional business cards, and square cards. Not only are Moo's products beautiful and of high quality, but their ordering platform is very intuitive and their workplace treats their employees fairly. For my cards, I use the cotton option because it is tree-free, and they're made up of 100% recycled t-shirt cut offs that would have normally been thrown away. As a bonus, these cards are printed in the USA in Providence, Rhode Island!

2. Art Prints

Resource - https://tower-press.com/collections/custom-art-prints

Over a year and a half ago, I accidentally (magically) stumbled upon Tower Press. At that point, they were under a year old as well, and I wanted to support another small, womxn-owned business as I began my own. I discovered that they offered digital art prints that were printed with 100% recycled cardstock, and I still use Tower Press as my resource for art prints to this day! Tower Press is located in Atlanta, Georgia so I can proudly say that my art prints are printed with love in the USA.

3. Belly Bands/ Cardstock Paper

Resource - https://www.frenchpaper.com/

Before I started using French Paper Co., I was using a different brand of paper for belly bands (the bands I use to wrap my tea towels with) that I didn't feel totally comfortable using because I didn't know where it was coming from, and I didn't know how it was being produced. I highly value honesty when it comes to the materials I'm using, and it felt wrong to not have that information. French Paper Co. is amazing because they are based in the USA in Niles, Michigan. Their paper mill is powered by full renewable hydroelectric generators (since 1922!) which has saved one million barrels of fossil fuel to date.

​*Please note that French Paper does not print and cut my belly bands. I just order the paper, and I still do all the printing and cutting myself.

For more information on their environmental practices, check out this link on their website  - https://www.frenchpaper.com/environmental-practices

4. Screen Printing

Resource - http://www.thearmfactory.com/

When I hit a point where block printing all of my tea towels became unsustainable and impossible to keep up with during busy seasons, I looked into local screen printers to do the printing for my most popular patterns, and I came across The Arm Factory, based in Portland, Maine. Everything they print, is printed by hand by a team of hand-working people. We print our tea towels with water-based inks, and they also offer the option for soy-based/PVC free inks as well. The benefit of having your screen printer based in the same city as you is the fact that you don't need to pay for shipping, and that you're directly supporting your local economy by supporting another small business in your community.

The main detail to look for/ask about when finding a screen printer is finding a shop that prints with eco-friendly or water-based inks because not all shops are set up for this!


5. Die Cut Kraft Stickers

Resource - https://tower-press.com/collections/labels-stickers/products/recycled-kraft-stickers

Not only do we work with Tower Press to print our art prints, but we also have our die-cut stickers printed with them as well. Our custom, die-cut "Freckled Fuchsia" stickers are printed on 6mm recycled, brown kraft stock, which is their most eco-friendly option on their site. These can print in full color, and even white ink!

6. Mailer Boxes

Resource - ​https://packlane.com/products/mailer-box

We've been using Packlane for the past few months to create our custom, kraft mailer boxes, sized specifically for our tea towels. Packlane provides an intuitive interface for uploading and customizing your own mailer, shipping or folding carton box. The Packlane team is based in San Francisco, California, and all Packlane boxes are printed and produced in the USA! Their corrugated cardboard material contains a majority of recycled material and all of their boxes are recyclable, so we feel really good about that! As a bonus, their mailers are self-locking, which means very little tape is required to seal them shut, and that greatly reduces the need for packing tape at all. To seal our boxes, we just use one compostable sticker - and that's all!

7. Packaging Stickers/ Labels

Resource - https://www.noissue.co/

Last Summer we won a pack of 500 custom stickers from an Instagram giveaway we had entered through Noissue! Social media can be really great for that. We ended up using those free stickers to create custom labels to seal our kraft mailer boxes (mentioned above). Not only does Noissue offer custom, eco-friendly stickers, but they also offer tissue paper and packaging tape, as well as compostable mailers. I can't say I've used their other products besides the stickers, but I definitely will with the coming year. To put the cherry on top, all of their inks are soy-based (ink made from soy beans) which is a more environmentally friendly option opposed to traditional petroleum-based inks. Additionally, soy inks make the paper easier to recycle. Noissue is also FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Certified, which ensures that products like paper and wood have been sourced in an environmentally friendly, socially responsible, and economically viable manner.

5 Production Habits that I'm Shifting This Year

My dream is to have Freckled Fuchsia's footprint be as minimal as possible, and there's definitely still some work to do. I hope that the resources I shared above inspire you to think about some changes you'd like to make for yourself, the company you work for, or for your own business in the coming year. Here are a few changes I will be making this year that will support my business's environmental and social values:

1. No More Cellophane Sleeves with Online Print Orders

This is where I held the most guilt in 2019. Even though my art prints are printed on recycled paper, they were still being shipped in clear cellophane sleeves that were just going to be mostly likely thrown out anyway once they were unwrapped.

Cellophane bags act as a sealed, protective barrier for art prints, shielding the print from spills or greasy finger tips, which is why many creatives use them for art, greeting cards and post cards. With that being said, they aren't necessary for shipping, but they're really helpful for in-store display or craft-fair displays. I plan to switch to the compostable option that Clear Bags offers here for wholesale orders and craft market purposes ​https://www.clearbags.com/bags/eco

2. Transition to an Eco-friendly Block Printing Ink

I've been using the Speedball Block Printing Fabric Ink for tea towels because I trust it's consistency, and it doesn't need to be heat set to cure. It cures on its own in about 24 hours, which is really nice. However, in the coming year, once I've used up my Speedball inks, I plan to transition to using Permaset Aqua because they are currently the most eco-friendly ink option for block printing at the moment. Additionally, I'd like to do some more research to see if there are other fabric inks for block printing available as well.

3. Less Amazon Prime, more Local Art Supply Stores

I value supporting local businesses as much as I can, and I'm making an effort to depend less on the convenience that Amazon Prime offers, especially if I know that I can find the same thing at my local art supply or hardware store. Amazon Fulfillment Centers have been demanding extremely high expectations of their employees that have resulted in dangerous work environments and injuries, and this is not something that I am proud to support. Please first check with your local craft and supply stores, or even check other small online suppliers before always going to Amazon Prime first!

4. Transition to Sustainably-sourced Tissue Paper

Above, I mentioned Noissue's tissue paper, and that all of their products are FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Certified, which ensures that products like paper and wood have been sourced in an environmentally friendly, socially responsible, and economically viable manner. I use tissue paper to wrap all of my orders, but I don't have clear information about how it's been produced, or where it's been sourced and I don't like that. Once I run out of my current stock of tissue paper, I'll be making the switch!

If you're curious about the FSC Certification and what it means, you can read more here - 

5. Packing With Kraft Tape Only

Packing tape should be the last thing I have to worry about when it comes to the small details of growing a sustainable business. Eco Enclose offers a flatback kraft tape that is recyclable, made of renewable materials and is made in the USA. Here's the link to the tape https://www.ecoenclose.com/2x-60-yds-carton-sealing-tape-kraft-flatback-single-roll/ 

If you're looking to create your own colorful and fun, eco-friendly packing tape, Noissue offers that option as well! https://www.noissue.co/

Please let me know if this beginning list of resources was helpful to you, and feel free to reach out to me about other resources you think would be useful to mention above!

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