August 29, 2011

Is it Possible to Create Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Business Through Art?

Personally, I think there are a lot of answers to this question depending on who is asked, which is why my goal in this series is to get answers by asking artists directly.

If we look at big business, the answer to many may be a resounding no, but what about small businesses? Every business starts as a small business. Does this mean that the fate of a small vendor on Etsy will be the same as a large corporation?

As a seller on Etsy and an artist, I believe that my business and art are both eco-friendly and sustainable, yet, I’m realistic in knowing that at the very beginning it is hard to always do the right thing and be the most eco-friendly business owner. For example, I have yet to plant trees as a way to give back to the earth for the trees used to create the paper I use to make invitations. The one thing I’ve learned, however, is when a business owner makes the decision to stick to their beliefs, businesses are shaped and developed accordingly.

Before interviewing artists, I decided to research the term “sustainability” since it is the key word in the "green" movement, but what does it mean?

I came across these three definitions that I think help shed some light:

  • Sustainability embodies "stewardship" and "design with nature," well established goals of the design professions and "carrying capacity," a highly developed modeling technique used by scientists and planners. The most popular definition of sustainability can be traced to a 1987 UN conference. It defined sustainable developments as those that "meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs"(WECD, 1987). Robert Gillman, editor of the In Context magazine,extends this goal oriented definition by stating "sustainability refers to a very old and simple concept (The Golden Rule) onto future generations as you would have them do onto you.” (
  • Sustainability is the capacity to endure. Sustainability interfaces with economics through the social and ecological consequences of economic activity. Moving towards sustainability is also a social challenge that entails, among other factors, international and national law, urban planning and transport, local and individual lifestyles and ethical consumerism. Ways of living more sustainably can take many forms from reorganising living conditions (e.g., ecovillages, eco-municipalities and sustainable cities), to reappraising work practices (e.g. using permaculture, green building, sustainable agriculture), or developing new technologies that reduce the consumption of resources.” (
  • Finally, according to the United States EPA (Environmental Protection Agency): “Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations. Sustainability is important to making sure that we have and will continue to have, the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and our environment.(

Whew, that’s a lot! I get the over all meaning thanks to these three definitions, but what does it mean for artists and the growing industry of hand-crafted goods that you find on Etsy and at fairs?Also how can you know to trust what someone says when the word is used for every industry and good on the shelves?

That's where this column comes in! As a new {NewNew} blogger, I intend to be your eco-friendly and sustainability writer, covering topics such as how artists, business owners and Etsians create with the ever-growing issues of consumerism, the economy, climate change, and unsustainable business practices and their effect on natural resources.

In coming issues, I’ll post interviews and stories from artists directly-introducing their different styles and approaches to their art and these issues. Also, I’m extremely interested in hearing ideas from you readers; so please share any and all thoughts on the shift of business as eco and sustainable issues make demands, especially as the handmade industry continues to pick up steam and chug away.

Until September!


S2 Stationery and Design

No comments: