After talking with Philippa, Starfish Project’s Director of Operations and Organizational Development, I am even more proud of the steps they have been making toward a sustainable future. As promised, I talked with her about the first of the four principles that works towards a sustainable society. Remember, this is the one that works toward reducing our contribution to the continual buildup of materials directly from our earth’s crust (see Sustainable Primer for more on this). We also moved on and started talking about the 2nd issue, working to “reduce and eliminate our contribution to the systematic accumulation of substances produced by society.” To start, all of the pieces are lead and nickel free. The silver pieces are silver, silver plated, or Australian silver. There are no precious stones used, and the coral they had been using in a couple of the looks will be reduced. They have been pushing ceramic pieces and they also have wood and coconut shell pieces. They do use pearls, but they are fresh water pearls that have been cultivated.
When they first began looking for pieces to be shaped for the jewelry, they would have to buy raw materials and supplies from the market while talking with sellers. Now, because of the demand and amount being made they talk with suppliers. This makes it both easier, and more difficult. Now, they must work to try and find pieces that are reasonably priced, but also made with an interest in fair trade commitments which does not always occur. They have to be able to buy pieces that keep with the mentality of quality of the individual jewelry. During their searches, they have been able to enlist the help of local artisans and in doing so are able to provide business opportunities for local merchants.
In terms of shipping and manufacturing, recycling is crucial. Everything can be used again…and again…and again. When they prepare to ship boxes over to Elkhart from China they include bubble wrap to prevent the jewelry from breaking and what little space is left is filled with brown packaging paper. Now, when I say what little space is left, I mean what little space is left. These boxes come in various sizes of big. When the women pack the boxes for shipping they fill to a level size and then, cut down the top. They then fold the tops over and prepare for tape (lots and lots of tape to keep it in tact and water resistant). Styrofoam peanuts aren’t used and the bubble wrap is used again when it arrives in Elkhart (it fills boxes in the back ready for shipment).
This week showed me how the Starfish-Project is already moving in the right direction toward a sustainable society; we’ll see what next week brings!