An Essay On Ethical Sustainability

An artist sounding off

Posted on May 30, 2019   4 minute read ∼ Tagged with  :  •  ∼ Filed in  : 

Somethig’s been on my mind lately. Why is buying sustainable and ethically sourced items important?

Here is the common train of thought of an irresponsible consumer: you see a craft item for sale at a a market, a handmade purse, for example. It’s on sale for $30. “That’s way too much for a purse when I can get the same thing at Wal-mart for $10!” Yes, in some cases this is true. But have you ever considered where that item at Wal-mart came from? How this item came to be?

This is easy to answer in the case of the crafter. They made it with their own hands and the comfort of their home or studio. A Wal-mart bag, on the other hand, has questionable origins. It was likely made overseas in a factory that does not support human rights or the right to create labor unions. A place where thousands are injured by machinery or sickened by toxic chemicals used in manufacturing every year. Places where the average rate wage is less than $160 a month. We are complicit in these actions every time that we choose the cheaper or seemingly more convenient option. Through our purchases, our money directly goes to funding a corporate machine that is violating human rights and destroying the environment.

Because the item’s so cheap, it is practically disposable. You don’t care about it in the way same way as an actually valuable purchase. And don’t confuse the meaning of value with expense. It is the intention behind it, the environment it was produced in, and the deliberate care that was put into the item that raises the value of it. Paying a little more is simply a side effect of a system that is inherently more ethical and its manufacturing process. Doing the right thing, like paying your artisan a livable wage, does tend to increase the overhead cost just a little more.

And what about the artists that you supported? In turn, they get a chance to make a living wage in a market that is often otherwise impossible to compete in. When we buy cheap crap, we aren’t just hurting the workers who had to make them in such poor conditions. We are also hurting those back at home who can’t make ends meet because no one sees the value in their skilled trade.

And do not doubt that the fire arts and crafts are difficult skill to master. I am reminded of a time my mom wanted a tea stained primitive doll off of Etsy. It was about $60. “That’s just outrageous! Where do they get off charging that? I could probably make one myself, it looks so simple.” That’s the secret, folks. It looks simple, but it’s not. Knowing this, I slyly agreed in making them ourselves. I brought over some supplies and we got to work.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with DIYing your own project every now and then. Just don’t bite off more than what you can chew. We spent the entire day working on these dolls. I did all the structural sewing with a sewing machine. Mom marveled that if she were to do it herself she would have had to hand sew it, because she didn’t know how to use a sewing machine. When we started stuffing the small pieces for the arms and legs, it clicked for her. “This is such a pain! I would pay someone $60 not to have to do this ever again!” Aha.

The artist takes a lot of the guesswork out for you by “pre-making” your items for you. Yes, you can do it yourself, but you may find yourself in a project that is beyond bail out, doing more work than you have skills or patience for. In our case, it turned out fine. Our prim dolls are adorable, but mom has not questioned the price of handmade goods since.

And neither should you. Not only is it more ethical to buy from a fine artist, it is a way to thank them for their hours of dedication to studying and refining their skills, so that item you buy is as perfected and convenient as it could get. These things matter. Supporting local craftsmen matter. It’s saying “YES” to accountability and “HELL NO” to an absolutely rotten system that cannot be sustained. I urge you to start making better consumer choices today. Not only will you feel better about your purchases, but you will be making the world a little bit of a better place too.

P.S Are you an artist? Got a website or something to promote? Comment below with the info - any place your link can go is an extra little boost for your business- and I whole heartedly support that, too.

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