Circular economics

Many well-intentioned discussions about being ‘green’ are circular – just tail-chasing. What’s needed are a better kind of circles: supply chains that bring waste goods back into use.

For years I neglected my passion for art because I was too busy worrying about the environment. Nothing could be more important than nature – not only because we rely on it totally, but also because of its intrinstic value. For many artists like me it is also our main inspiration. But I concluded that as we need an economy, it is good to participate in it. Furthermore, I, as an individual, need art for my fulfilment, mindfulness and identity. So I went ahead with my range of cards, promising myself to pursue and promote environmental best practice.

I felt that cards illustrating natural plants and animals might be rather meaningless if I did not ‘stand up for’ these creatures in practical ways. Hence I started adding ideas on the backs of the cards about actions to protect nature and charities that are doing so.

I also began to think about sustainability in my supply chain. I asked my printers to use cardboard from well managed forests. (Note to self for phase 2: do due diligence to check how they actually delivered on this requirement.) Finding envelopes known to be sustainable, let alone recyclable, was a bit of a fruitless enterprise. True, many paper mills use pulp from well managed forests as a matter of course, but finding a supplier with the selection I needed who also informs you about sustainability seemed to be a big ask. I believe it may be a case of finding a supplier you like and then asking for the environmental information once you are a customer, persuading them to pursue best practice in future. One big achievement was finding sleeves made of plant-based biodegradable cellophane, which I’ll be introducing for my Christmas card range this year.

The final issue is to reduce waste and close the loop by trying to re-use some of it. I thought my cards could be re-used by writing in them in a certain way – top left; also that I could offer to take back the cards and cellophane and try to reuse them. I have added information on the backs of the cards about how this can be done.

Needless to say, not only are the fronts of my cards working hard to please the recipients, but the backs are now working pretty hard too. I am definitely getting my money’s worth out of every square inch of that sustainable cardboard!