Sustainability: What, How and Why
I describe my products as sustainable. But what does that mean and why does it matter?
Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.1
In 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development met to discuss and develop a set of goals to work towards; they grew out of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) that claimed success in reducing global poverty while acknowledging there was still much more to do. The SDG eventually came up with a list of 17 items which included amongst other things:
- The end of poverty and hunger
- Better standards of education and healthcare – particularly as it pertains to water quality and better sanitation
- To achieve gender equality
- Sustainable economic growth while promoting jobs and stronger economies
- All of the above and more while tackling the effects of climate change, pollution and other environmental factors that can harm and do harm people’s health, livelihoods and lives.
- Sustainability to include health of the land, air and sea.
Finally, it acknowledged the concept of nature having certain rights – that people have stewardship of the world and the importance of putting people at the forefront of solving the above global issues through management of the environment and of consumption (for example, reducing packaging and discouraging food waste as well as promoting the use of recyclable materials).2
Clearly sustainability is a complex issue which touches almost every aspect of human life not just the environment. Sustainable development is carried out on a global, national and local level.
So how does Love HeartWood tackle sustainability?
As I developed my hobby into a business I’ve had to make many decisions. Deciding what type of wood to turn? Where I would get it from? What sort of finishes I would use? What sort of presentation boxes I should order and who from? How would I package items? Through the process of making these decisions it became clear that I was subconsciously making sustainable choices.
To me it just makes sense to choose that which is most beneficial to myself, my home and the wider world. In consequence I have chosen to turn local wood from tree surgeons or recycled wood. This is for the following reasons:
– I hate waste. If I didn’t use the wood it would be thrown in the chipper or burnt. By using it, it can become useful.
– I could use exotic timbers such as Iroko, Ebony, Rosewood and Mango wood, bought from a wood blank supplier. However I would have no way of knowing if that timber had been harvested in a sustainable way. Sourcing close to home means I know where my wood comes from and the supply chain it’s been through.
– Why ship timber half way round the world creating a large carbon footprint when I have perfectly good wood on my doorstep?
– From a health point of view it is safer for me to turn native wood. Exotic timber is often more hazardous to the turner’s health. Although I have to wear protective clothes and guard against dust inhalation to turn any type of wood. Exotic woods have more risk of skin and eye irritation, sensitization, and poisoning.
Many waxes and oils currently used for sealing wood are usually labelled hazardous. I have spent a fair amount of time finding healthy alternatives. I do not want to be compromising my health or anyone else’s. This has meant going back to more traditional, natural finishes which do not have modern chemicals added to them. These chemicals are added to speed up drying and curing times. I take this extra time into account in my production schedule because I believe the benefits outweigh the saving in time.
Once I realised I was making sustainable choices I continued this ethos throughout the whole business. For example, I reuse shipping boxes and packing material but when I have to use a new one it is 100% recyclable. I also use paper tape, not plastic, to seal boxes. When selecting a packaging supplier I chose one whose cardboard boxes contain a minimum of 75% recycled contents.
This is just a few of the ways Love HeartWood attempts to reduce, reuse and recycle to ensure it operates in a sustainable way.
Love HeartWood’s Sustainable Future
The more I research about running a sustainable business the more opportunities I find.
For example, I am planning to switch my website hosting to a server powered by 100% clean wind energy from UK wind farms. You might wonder what impact this change can have. But the powering of data centres and cloud computing run on fossil fuels is coming close to rivalling the aviation industry as a major contributor to global carbon emissions.3
There is also the possibility of switching to a green, ethical insurer.
I hope after reading this piece you understand why sustainability is so crucial to us and the planet. It matters because sustainable solutions help us manage the balance between the environment and consumption. In conclusion, the issues might seem global and out of our reach but I believe the simple choices we make, day in and day out, can have an effect. The choices we make collectively have a huge impact. Moreover, from a personal standpoint I am happier knowing that what I do had a positive effect on the world, not a negative one.