Sustainability and Thoughts on Being A Conscious Consumer

The other day I was filling out my application for Be Local and they asked me a doozy of a question:

"Community-focused means the business has integrated social and environmental impacts and the business prioritizes relationships with other local businesses and community."

The last part wasn't too difficult to answer. I love people and I'm always looking for local talent and small businesses who I can use for my services. Its very rare I need to order anything online. With the exception of rare or hard to find parts, everything we use is sourced in Calgary or Edmonton.

It was the social and environmental impacts that stumped me. I wasn't sure how to answer. I'd just never given it a lot of thought. And then it occurred to me, and this was my response.

"while I'm not perfect (I drive too much), I feel that I do my best to promote a reduce, reuse, and recycle agenda. Why buy new when you can buy used? Or vintage? Our business keeps hundreds of vintage furniture pieces in circulation, many of which have been restored, repaired, or otherwise re-purposed. We just hope we can convince others to see the value in purchasing used and vintage, and collectively reduce our reliance on unnecessary goods."

I feel like there are always parts of the business that are difficult to reduce. I burn a ton of gas and I hate that. I use chemical strippers and solvent based topcoats. But I think it's important to do what you can and always be striving for a goal of sustainability. If I can strip a piece of furniture without using stripper, I always try. I don't reach for the stripper first, I try other methods first... sometimes the finish is soft and I can scrape it off, or sometimes I don't need to remove it at all!

I've considered the use and environmental impact of the topcoats we use. Are they harsh? Yes. Is there alternatives? Yes. Though I think you need to balance the pros and cons, and it is not always easy to weigh. I want the pieces I restore to outlive me. The finish needs to be strong and durable, and resist the wear and tear of family life. The last thing I want, after investing substantial materials into a restoration, is the piece to be wrecked in two, five, or ten years. These pieces are already 50+ and they should absolutely last another 50 years.

So being sustainable is quite a complex goal. Especially when you are trying to reach the goal while running a business. It's so easy to go for whats convenient and fast, rather than what is best for our world.

I was poking around looking for some ideas for this post and came across this post by Selina Ho, the founder and CEO of Recloseted. She wrote this great piece for Daily Hive on 10 ways to become a more conscious consumer (and why it matters). It's focused around fashion, but most of the tips work for vintage furniture and collectables as well. 

Give it a read and let me know your thoughts!

- Justin