Since I started selling my crafts, I've been conscious of making things that can be reused, and that might replace things that people normally use once and throw away. Other eco-friendly practices that I use:
1. reusing papers, boxes and envelopes I receive to send out my products (reduce, reuse, recycle),
2. combining trips to the post office with other errands (use gas efficiently),
3. purchasing supplies made locally or as geographically close as possible (supports local businesses, cuts down on fuel use), and
4. using materials that have been repurposed, recovered, or are made from recycled materials.
At this point, I'm trying to incorporate more materials that have a lower impact on the environment, so lately I've been reading up on the fibers that become the yarn I work with. Here is what I've found so far:
Bamboo seems to be the new superstar of ecofriendly materials, and I do love the incredible softness this fiber adds to yarns and fabrics. True, this plant is a fast-growing renewable resource. However, processing the fibers into fabrics and yarn uses chemicals that are not earth friendly. This came as a reminder to me that I need to consider all the aspects of production when choosing yarns.
Using organically grown materials is a major goal for me. I am shifting more and more to using organic cotton yarns, although they tend to be a bit more expensive. I would love if I could find an organic cotton yarn grown in the US, but Canada is as close as I can get right now. Cotton has a drawback, too, though, in that its growth requires the use of lots of water. Not exactly low impact. I'm checking into hemp and linen next, as they seem to provide properties similar to cotton without the use of so much water.
Wool has traditionally been considered an organic yarn, although to be truly organic, the sheep need to be organically fed, and the fibers need to be processed in a chemical-free way. Some have expressed concerns about instances where shearing has caused injury to sheep, also, although the practices leading to injury are becoming less and less prevalent. I am allergic to sheep's wool, so I don't often work with this fiber.
Alpaca and cashmere both seem to be a good choice as an alternative to wool. Happily for me, alpaca is hypoallergenic, comes in a variety of rich earth tones, and is less expensive than cashmere, which is famous as a luxury fiber. These fibers are gathered by combing. Alpacas have a low impact on the environment due to their soft feet. No information has come my way about whether alpacas or goats whose hair is made into yarn are organically fed yet.
Stay tuned if you're interested in more- next I'll be checking into hemp, linen and silk!