Saturday, 19 July 2008

Considering the Environment

On the Intuitive Parenting forums, Liz asked, "Should we really be adding to the fuel/carbon impact of goods travelling all around? Shouldn't we be trying to shop locally all the time? And do we really need to help keep Australia Post wealthy?"

And with regard to Spiral Garden, here is my reply:
When buying stock for Spiral Garden I try to choose products made from natural materials by ethical companies - WAHMs (work-at-home Mums) when possible. I stock several fair trade products, and would like to expand as I find more of these. Safety is important to me, so there are few products I stock with any painted finishes, and art supplies are as natural as I can find - almost all Lyra and Stockmar lines, for example. These also last a long, long time. Longer than any art supplies I've bought my children before. So to me, that is a huge environmental plus (the same goes for the toys - I'd sooner buy a Debresk wooden car than 10 Hot Wheels ones for the same price and lifespan). Most of the toys and craft items we stock won't be in landfill at the end of their lifespan. They'll return to the earth from whence they came (compostable dolls - ewww!)

I also use almost all recycled packaging - cardboard, bubble wrap, boxes etc from other home-based businesses: Miessence, Creative Memories and Solarworks. I also recycle packaging from my wholesalers and suppliers as much as possible. I do buy the odd Postpak and some prepaid satchels. I think using recycled stuff is even better than buying specific eco-friendly packaging and so endeavour to obtain as much clean, once-used stuff I can grab! Of course everything would LOOK much nicer in pretty natural-coloured corrugated cardboard and the like, but when the bubble wrap is free, recycled and re-usable, then I choose that. My packing slips have a paragraph explaining this and encouraging my customers to recycle what they can.

We buy green power for our home electricity (the most 'green' available to us). My work computer has a low-energy screen, has the most energy-efficient settings for when I'm distracted from work (standby etc). We also use energy-efficient bulbs for lighting, but rely on natural lighting by day.

I also buy recycled copy paper - the best I can find locally as shipping reams of copy paper across the country via mail because it's slightly more recycled than the stuff I can get here just doesn't make sense to me! And I refill my printer ink cartridges myself, which saves landfill and money.

When posting orders it's a 24km round trip for me so 95% of the time I combine posting orders with another outing - taking the children to an activity, going to the Markets or some other significant errand. I like the comparison of posting mail to public transport!

All of our rubbish is reused and recycled where possible. We have rubbish collection every six weeks and even with the farm, the business, and a large family household we make very little waste. We have our own gravity-fed water supply and process our own waste (no sewerage). All cleaning is done with Enjo and/or simple products like bicarb, vinegar and essential oils. That's a pretty green office space, IMO!

Lunch and herbal tea is often picked from the garden.

I plant trees here on our farm - a couple of hundred last year, and I'm already collecting trees for planting once the summer rain starts. Some of my stock is imported and so I do have some carbon miles to offset!

When I first considered buying Spiral Garden I had to think long and hard about the environmental impact vs benefits of owning such a business. I do believe that I'm aware and accountable, and don't feel guilty about the non-local nature of my business.

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