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Sustainability and Second Chances

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

I firmly believe in asking for and being given chances in life. Whether it’s a chance at fulfilling a childhood dream, defending ourselves in court or even fifteen minutes of fame, we all deserve a chance to get what we desire. After all, what we did with the chances that we were given is what makes each of us who we are today. For the most part, I even believe in second chances. Unless you’ve committed a heinous crime, or repeatedly been morally reprehensible, I see no harm.

You’re probably wondering why I’m babbling on about second chances, and what it has to do with my business, but there's a story behind it. I occasionally listen to the rather unimaginatively named BBC documentary podcast called Documentary. One particular episode was called Inside the Brain of Jeff Bezos. Love them or hate them, I enjoy learning about the thought processes of these wildly successful business people, not because I can hope to emulate them, but to understand how they think, what they think about and what makes them different.

Anyway, from recent events in the news, you’ll know that Mr Bezos is a big fan of space travel. And in the podcast he mentioned that since life on this planet is becoming unsustainable, we should explore the possibility of living on Mars. We all know that right now there’s no proof of life on Mars, and as things stand, it’s “not possible” to live on Mars. And this, I suspect is the big difference between the likes of Jeff Bezos and the vast majority. He doesn’t think anything is impossible; it’s just a matter of when and at what cost something can happen. So I’ll give Mr Bezos all due respect for thinking outside the box. But that’s where my agreement with him ends.

I have nothing at all against space exploration, but what he’s saying is that we’ve messed up this planet, and now we should be given a second chance to go off and mess up another one. Respectfully, I disagree. In this particular case, I don’t believe we should be given a second chance. Our attempts at sustainable living are too young still for us not to regress back to our old ways of living and thinking. So I think our duty is to stick with the planet we have, and try to make it better, or at least not worse.

“What are you doing about it?” I hear you ask. My business is young and any exploration of how to make it more sustainable is even younger. But in the year since I’ve started, I have made some changes, and here they are.

Perhaps most important of all is that I’ve now stopped acting as if trying to create a sustainable business means that I deserve a pat on the back. Every business, service or product based, large or small, should have sustainability on their agenda as a matter of course, just the way creating a product, providing a service or making a profit is on its agenda. Sustainability shouldn’t be a selling point, it should be a given.

I'm also trying to learn and understand more about which of my processes are the most harmful to the environment, and need to be examined more closely, without turning the learning into an academic exercise.

My processes consume electricity and require heat, packaging and mined products. I know I can’t fix everything at once, nor can I stop some of the processes without significantly changing the very nature of my business. But if I have a better understanding of the environmental impact of my processes, I can at least take steps in the right direction.

As I said, I'm not looking for a PhD in environmental science, I'm just trying to be a good human being. So I’m taking a pragmatic approach, and going for the low hanging fruit first. I’ve already started using recycled silver wherever possible – I’m struggling to find a reputable supplier that sells loose chain made from recycled silver. But other than that, I’m pretty much using recycled all the way.

I also recycle my own scrap bits of silver by melting them down, removing the impurities and converting them to sheet. I can’t use this silver for customer orders because I can’t certify the removal of any impurities to sterling silver standard, but it’s certainly good enough for making prototypes. The photo above shows my pot of silver scraps that I melt down with borax. I then give them to a friend who has a rolling mill, to turn into sheet like the one in the photo.

Recycled silver is expensive, but despite the erosion in my profit margins, using recycled silver is particularly dear to my heart. Not only is silver mining bad for the environment, it’s also dangerous. We've been watching Poldark on Netflix of late, and it really drives home the dire conditions that the miners work in and the risks that they have to take. And somehow it’s always the poorer, disadvantaged people who end up doing these jobs. You’re unlikely to find Jeff Bezos down a hot, smelly mineshaft.

I have to admit, I’m not as good with my packaging as I am with my metal. What I have right now is recyclable, but isn’t made fully from recycled materials. But I’m working on it, and I'll make sure my next batch is. I have my eye on this rather expensive, gorgeous blush pink packaging made from 100% recycled materials. I ordered a sample box and it’s absolutely divine to touch. But for now I think I’m going to have to go for something a little less extravagant.

I'm thinking of branching out into gemstone jewellery this year, and considering the use of lab created gemstones instead of mined ones. Now before you start crying 'fake!!', hear me out. There's a difference between lab created gemstones and simulated gemstones.

Lab created gemstones have exactly the same chemical composition and healing properties as mined gemstones, but have been created in a lab, and are better for the environment. Simulated gemstones, on the other hand, are made of a totally different material - for example, red glass instead of ruby. I would never even consider using simulated gemstones. And in any case, I see it as my duty to give the provenance of any gemstones I use, so if I've used a lab created gemstone, people will know.

As far as the rest is concerned, I’ll be as environmentally conscious as I can be wherever possible. This is no different from reducing plastic waste or minimising the use of washing machines and dishwashers in our personal lives.

I’m a naturally thrifty person, and rarely crave the newest rage of the day. For a long time, thrift was considered rather unfashionable. But now, it’s a very natural byproduct of a responsible response to the environmental crisis. And luckily for me, it means that I barely need to adjust my attitude at all.

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