Today’s Feature Friday is a guest article by Nicola Budd. She tells us why she made her business go green and gives us her top tips on how you can make small changes to go green yourself.
Now we will hand over to Nicola!
In 2018 I set up Howell Illustration, quitting my job and diving in at the deep end. I’ve always loved drawing, and I decided that if I didn’t try then, it would just become harder and harder to do so later. So, in I jumped. I’m not a picky artist – I’ll take pretty much any job that comes my way, even turning my hand to graphic design recently (something I thought I’d never do due to my complete lack of technological prowess). But, it has just so happened to work out that the things I love to draw most are all nature-based, and that those things work particularly well when drawn with a dip pen and ink. What’s this got to do with going green? You ask.
Well, I don’t just draw nature-inspired things because they look pretty. I draw them because I love nature. I love wildlife. Go on my website, visit my blog and you’ll see that it runs through everything I do. It astounds me that there are people in this world who can look at all we have in nature and not care about whether or not it is saved. I’m not perfect in my lifestyle, but I care truly and deeply.
Enough to want to make a change.
I think it is a peculiarity of my generation that we wait for someone else to do something. Around my age, we grew up in two different worlds, the world of the late 80s and early 90s, where mobiles were not yet widespread, most houses were doing perfectly fine without a computer, and there were no real concerns or worries. We didn’t really have to think about solving huge problems, or whether Trump would start a nuclear war. It was always someone else’s problem. But now these problems are ours. They’re being brought home in very real ways. Thus, I needed a kick up the butt to actually start doing anything, and it came in the form of Kate Arnell, founder of YouTube Channel Eco Boost. Watching her channel taught me that there was something I could do.
I found her right before I started my business, so when last year, in 2018, I went full time. I made the decision that I would do what I could to help nature, future generations and this planet. For me, this meant going zero waste, or at least trying to produce as little waste as possible.
As I said before, I’m not perfect – and it’s not easy going zero waste in your business. You have to literally think of everything. People are far too keen to still use plastic, there are even times (like this morning) when I get a delivery of recycled paper goods – and it’s wrapped in plastic! Oh gosh, that is irritating beyond belief. Talk about an oxymoron (if the word oxymoron can apply to physical goods).
But I have taken a number of steps to become more sustainable, and it has meant radically re-imagining how I thought my business would look. For example, I started expanding my range last year to some homeware, bags, etc. but by Christmas I realised it was just producing too much waste, and sending a lot of things people don’t really need out into the world – which goes against everything I stand for. So, I’ve wound that aspect of my business down now, I’m sticking with art people can love and have on their walls for years to come.
I’m also in the process of stopping the mini prints I used to do, in favour of producing art cards – cards that people can frame afterwards as an art print. They not only have a dual use, but are also 100% recycled and packaged without plastic – these truly are zero waste cards. They will reduce my waste by around a third because I won’t need anything like the packaging I have for my prints. I’m currently looking into carbon offsetting my business too – I don’t have a huge carbon footprint because possibly my biggest source of carbon – my studio and home – is run off renewable energy, but carbon offsetting looks like a great option to mitigate the impact of my car and other unseen emissions until I can afford an electric one.
Tip 1: Take it a step at a time.
When you start out going green it feels like you need to fix everything all at once. This can, in people like me, cause some problems with inertia, because you’re just too overwhelmed to know where to start. If you start with something small (can you replace your printer paper with The Woodland Trust’s printer paper for example, which gives them a portion of sales and is all recycled?), then it’ll feel like you’re able to tackle the next problem. Once you’ve been thinking about this for a little while, it’ll start to come more naturally, then you’ll be able to see what you actually need to change, and will be able to take clearer steps to make this happen.
Some other starting small tips: can you use Ecosia as your search engine, which plants trees every time you search something? Can you recycle your ink cartridges through Recycle 4 Charity, which gives money to your chosen charity for sending them all of your old ink cartridges? Can you use recycled paper packaging from Eco-craft?
Tip 2: Think about your power usage and carbon offsetting
If you’re a small business like me, then two of the biggest problems with your business will be power usage and your car. When we moved down to Surrey, and I got my own studio, we switched our supplier to a green supplier, which means 100% of our energy is from renewable sources. Sure, it’s a little more expensive, but I’ll pay it to make a positive contribution to this world. It’s also a fairly simple, easy switch to make.
I’d also have a little think about carbon offsetting. There are plenty of schemes out there, and I’m still looking into it, so I’m not the font of knowledge right now, but I highly recommend having a look at it. Most of them will give you a questionnaire to begin with, to determine how much CO2 you generate, then they’ll give you your options. I started looking here.
Tip 3: Donate to a green charity.
Okay, it doesn’t have to be a green charity, but as this post is about green strategies, I thought that’s what I’d lead with. I donate 10% of all of my profits to The Woodland Trust, a UK charity which looks after woods and wildlife within the UK. I do this because I use a lot of paper, and for everyone and everything on this planet, woods are too important to lose (Have a read of Wilding by Isabella Tree if you want to know more about that). I also donate some of my profits occasionally to WWF, looking after endangered animals and their habitats around the world.
As an aside, I also try to buy as many gifts as I can through the website Good Gifts, where there are plenty of green gifts you can give, from protecting acres of bluebell wood, to donating towards penguin research.
Tip 4: Even the smallest change can make a difference
I have often heard too many people say, as an excuse for not trying ‘one person can’t make a difference,’ or ‘Me switching off my kettle won’t save the planet.’ To demonstrate how ridiculous these excuses are, I will give you one name: Greta Thunberg. If she had thought ‘I can’t make a difference’ then thousands upon thousands of schoolchildren all over the planet may never have had their voices heard. People like her continue the momentum behind this shift, people like her, like those who join her, are the people who get things done, and make the changes we need. So, make a small change, start with just a little one, then think of that combined with all the other people making little changes, then think of all of that combined with people like Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough – it’s amazing what a little change can do, isn’t it?
Tip 5: Keep the reasons you are doing this in mind.
Why do you want to go green? What is your driving force? This will get difficult, it is not an easy journey, and it’s harder still with a business. It’s difficult not only because there are not enough solutions out there yet, but also because of the mental toll it will take on you, constantly thinking about everything, and yes, feeling a little guilty when you do end up with plastic you don’t want. So I ask you again, why are you doing this? Is it for your children? Is it because you love nature? Keep those reasons in your mind, make them stronger than your desire to take the easy way out.
For me, this effort is worth it. It not only gives me a challenge (and I love a challenge), it makes me feel that, if I can accomplish this much change in just a short while, then anything is possible, and it goes some way to helping change and save this planet. In short, at a time when we desperately need it, going green gives me hope.
You can find me and reach my Etsy store through howellillustration.co.uk, or on Instagram @howellillustration. To read more about the steps I have taken in my business to go zero waste, check out my blog here.