From the outset, I (Ellen, chief Teeny Beader) wanted Teeny Bead Co to focus on making as little an environmental impact as possible. In practise, this has been one of the trickiest parts of running the business.
In this post, I want to talk about some of the things we're doing to be an ethical, sustainable business as well as the things we're working to do better.
Aside from making pieces to photograph and to take to fairs and markets (when we do finally get out of lockdown), all our pieces are made to order. Doing this means that we're able to reduce waste by only creating pieces that will be worn and loved.
Recycled, recyclable & minimal packaging
Everything your jewellery is sent in can be reused or recycled and we only use as much as we need. Your jewellery will arrive in a paper-padded envelope, snug in a pouch made at Teeny Bead HQ using recycled cotton fabric and carefully wrapped in acid-free tissue paper.
I decided to make the cotton pouches after struggling to find ones that I believed to be truly eco-friendly. There are plenty of packaging companies who have a range of cotton pouches labelled "eco-friendly", but I couldn't find out what that actually meant. So, to avoid the risk of falling into a green-washing trap, I decided the best course of action was for us to make our own out of 100% recycled, UK made cotton fabric.
Sustainable, recyclable & biodegradable materials
You won't find a single plastic bead on a Teeny Bead Co piece. All the materials we use are natural, recyclable or biodegradable. Most of our beads of made of glass, with the occasional semi-precious stone or freshwater pearl thrown in there. The thread for all-but-one of our designs is 100% silk, which is completely natural and biodegradable.
Local & independent suppliers
But it's not just about using good materials, is it? Almost all the materials for Teeny Bead Co pieces are bought from UK-based independent sellers and businesses. We have one component that comes from France, but that's the furthest supplier from Teeny Bead HQ. (And I am constantly on the hunt for an alternative supplier closer to home.)
Most of our suppliers offer eco-friendly and recyclable packaging themselves. Beads and other tiny jewellery findings have a habit of arriving in lots of little plastic bags, and we're pleased to have found a group of suppliers who are consciously working to avoid this.
Things we're working to improve
Although we're doing a pretty good job so far, there are always ways to improve your environmental impact and sustainability.
Three things we're working on right now are:
1. Sourcing recycled metal findings
The metals we use at the moment are recyclable, but our aim is for them all to be made from recycled materials, too. The first step we're looking to make is to create our disc pendants at Teeny Bead HQ. It's much easier to find recycled silver sheets than complete components, so we think this is the place to start.
2. Find a more eco-friendly alternative thread for the daisy chain pieces
At the minute, our daisy chain designs are made using a synthetic fibre thread. We've tried recreating this design with silk thread, but the transparent nature of the synthetic thread lends itself much better to the design. We're regularly researching a natural alternative, but haven't found anything so far that will quite do the job.
3. Find a freshwater pearl supplier who can guarantee sustainability
Let me start by saying that the suppliers we use for my freshwater pearls all state that they're ethically sourced, top quality pearls. This is good, but it's not best. We'd like to find a supplier who can guarantee that the pearls have been ethically and sustainably sourced.
If anyone reading this can point me in the direction of any suppliers or resources that will help with the areas we're looking to improve on, I'd be so, so grateful! In the meantime, we'll keep working, and no doubt be able to tick these goals off very soon.
Look after yourself. Look after the earth. And remember to have fun.