person holding black metal frames

Buy better, take better care, be better

One of the best ways to save the world, is to consume less.

Perhaps it’s an obvious statement, the less you consume the less you create—product and pollution. But more interesting is that, a lot of the things we own are creating pollution on a scale much larger than any of us may realise or care to take notice of.

Take for instance the humble t-shirt. We all own at least one and they’re mostly made of cotton, which on the surface seems like a pretty sustainable material. It grows from the land, harvesting is done by hand and the weaving can be done without any machinery. But there’s a darker side with the way it’s become industrialised.

Cotton fields contribute millions of metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year. A conventional cotton field stinks; its chemicals burn the eyes and nauseate the stomach. Before harvesting in non-frost regions like California, cotton has to be sprayed by a crop duster with the defoliant Paraquat, about half of which hits the target. The rest settles over the neighbours’ fields and into our streams.” Let my people go Surfing (2005)

We all own products that have generated pollution and that’s unavoidable. But if we can repair them when they rip, reuse them time after time and recycle them when they’re finished—our pollution to consumption can be balanced and this can be made much easier when we invest onto the side of better.

"We all own products that have generated pollution and that's unavoidable."

What of the status-quo?

If the current pandemic (COVID19) has taught us anything, it’s that just because something is normal, that doesn’t make it correct. The status-quo may seem to be plain sailing from above, but the waves it’s breaking are sometimes monstrous.

As mentioned before, the common material of cotton is one such example. At present, it’s consumed enormously by the culture of fast-fashion which produces low-quality products on a larger scale, to feed the customer demand for easily accessible ‘newness’.

The current status-quo for cotton is production by the cheapest and fastest means possible, but this hasn’t always been the case and it needed be for the future. Previously quoted, the passage from Let My People go Surfing continues by saying “None of this is necessary. No cotton was grown this way before World War II, when many of the chemicals now used in agriculture were first developed as nerve gases for warfare.”

There isn’t a single person reading this that hasn’t bought a piece of clothing, simply because it was cheap enough for your budget and just never interacted with it again. The low-cost-low-care attitude spreads well beyond clothes and it’s become a mainstay for big brand marketing. The biggest example of this is Apple, they produce a new iPhone ever year even though its very first incarnation was built from parts strong and useful enough to be still in action today. Problem is, their software cannot be legally removed from that classic device and it’s no longer supported by them—forcing the customers hand, in favour of fast consumption.

How does this relate to design?

It hasn’t escaped me that you’re reading this, written on the blog of a design studio’s website and at present, this particular studio doesn’t sell t-shirts. Though I do manage the merchandise for The Brickyard, which is also eco-friendly and sustainable—nudge nudge, hint hint.

The point I’m making is this, at present everyday things such as business cards, leaflets, marketing and even meetings aren’t particularly bothered with the environmental impacts they are implicated in. Too many businesses are bothered by quick turnarounds, flash company cars and low costs for things they deem necessary but unimportant.

I stand – as a business and a human – to turn up to client meetings on a bicycle, to offer sustainable products as the default and to prioritise working with others who share this vision. I’ll likely lose much more custom from these choices than they’ll generate but if nobody else takes the initiative to challenge laziness and greed in our community, I might as well try.

If you can make the choice to buy better, whether that’s a t-shirt, business stationery or branding and do your upmost to keep those items in good condition—not only will they serve you better but you’ve made a big step towards being a more conscious human being.

Buy better, take better care, be better.


green leaf tree during daytime

What's the point in an eco-friendly studio?

Our world has a serious pollution issue, so what could one studio possibly do to change this?

With black sails of smoke marauding our skies on a daily basis, it’s a fair question to ask how one boy with a green ambition could possibly make impact enough to change the status-quo.

Yvon Chouinard once said “Every one of us has to step up and do what you can, according to what your resources are” defining the role we all have to play in solving the problem that is human consumption. It outlines that we should all take responsibility to change what we can.

Yvon, owner of multiple big names in the outdoor scene; Patagonia and Black Diamond Equipment, is clearly a much more wealthy and influential man than myself. But whereas he – and his businesses – can be instrumental in having large environmental impacts such as the removal of retired dams in America, I can play my part by being conscious of the damage that my income, lifestyle and business can create.

As a designer, this is particularly poignant. I supply my community with their business cards, leaflets, posters and signs. I make the websites that drive their commerce and I layout the advertisements that builds their market. This makes it my responsibility to educate and instigate conscious and sustainable options to catalyse a change, both locally and further afield.

“Every one of us has to step up and do what you can, according to what your resources are.”

Yvon Chouinard

Every little helps

It wouldn’t be out of the realm of sensibility to suggest that Tesco’s famous tagline could attach to just about any cause, but it’s pretty useful in this case. As quoted before Yvon suggested we should all take the action that we can, with the resources available to us. So for myself, that is providing a vehicle to instigate small changes in local businesses through better trading practices, eventually developing a meaningful and lasting change.

Climate change will not be stopped because I provided the option for recycled paper to a local charity and we won’t keep our polar ice year through because I sent out a product with carbon-offset delivery—but it’s better than doing nothing at all. Just realising the impact we each make and deciding to actively reduce it, is the biggest change we can make at an individual level.

Awareness, education and choice are the three main staples of this business. To provide these to my local community, I hope to inspire a new-found understanding of care, possibly influencing how people consume on a personal and business level.

What are the options?

At a personal level, there are many things we can all do, and that I try to actively promote in my day-to-day. Big winners are; cycle commuting, using renewable energy providers and recycling avidly.

But as a business, you have the best chance to make the bigger impact, through awareness and care. Popular choices include; carbon offsetting, restriction of unnecessary travel, funding ecological projects and encouragement at an employee level of the previous options listed above.

It can be a confusing place, understanding how your footprint effects our environment but I’m here to help, in any way I can. Studio Walden prides itself not only on providing eco-friendly and sustainable products to Cumbria and beyond, but also supplying education and mentoring for more proactive ways to live ‘green’.

If you’d like some free information about green practices that you or your business can follow, or even a top-to-bottom overhaul in favour of a more sustainable business practice—don’t hesitate to get in touch.


white and black kanji text wall decor

It's a great time to start again

A pandemic isn't good for much.

Markets are closed, windows are growing cobwebs and the high street is little more than a concept. It’s clear COVID-19 has taken a lot from our local businesses but this seismic halt on trade opens an opportunity for change. And you’d be a fool to miss it.

Right now, there have never been less eyes on your business. Window shopping, average footfall and passive customers no longer exist. This is the perfect time to solve the issues that you always said ‘I don’t have time for’ because honestly, right now, you do. Think of all the hassle that comes with changing websites, updating emails and waiting on new business cards—only months ago this would be a nightmare that you’d have to accept, but in the current climate, it couldn’t be easier to do.

Businesses are seizing the opportunity to refresh, restart and rebrand as it’s easier to replace a broken cog when the rest aren’t moving. With a number of government incentives to reignite business post-lockdown, it’s worth considering what areas of your public facing brand aren’t working and whether you can afford not to fix them before the markets reopen.

"It's easier to replace a broken cog when the rest aren't moving."

Analyse.

Think about those times you’ve been up against it, you’re pushing your business further than it’s been and you’re worried whether your logo looks good enough to charge this amount. Remember the times you winced when a potential customer asked if you had a website, knowing you did, but afraid to tell them it’s stuck in 2008. Think about those poor beaten up business cards that you never handed out.

If you can even relate to one of these situations, why not turn the tables on this time of unrest and build a launchpad for the future. Perhaps instead none of those tales applied to you, your website works great and your business cards line the pockets of all your key customers—is your social media connecting with potential customers too? If not, you might be missing a trick.

At this second, there has never been more time for people to endless browse the ever growing depths of their phones, constantly striving for content to engage with because they’ve watered every plant in the house, read every book and watched every tutorial and now they are looking for something else. Why not adapt your brand to be just that?

Take action.

It doesn’t have to be massive, even a small change can make a difference. Don’t sell your house and move to the centre of nowhere, or throw away your smartphone just yet—simply restart how you think about your brand. You have time to be mindful about what works and what doesn’t, a commodity that life hands out quite rarely.

Right now, that poor website hasn’t had an update in months, your Twitter is quieter than an empty nest and the landlord has forgotten what you look like. Take this time to make a plan, figure out what could do with a refresh and simply start again. There are hundreds of resources to help you, Skillshare and Audible rank as some of my favourites.

At the end of the day, the biggest reason why any business survives is whether or not they can be adaptable. Currently you have the chance to explore different avenues and paths with more resource than ever before and it’s time to act upon it, prepared for when things ‘return to normal’ whatever the new-normal will be.

If you’d like any help with your next step, don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’d love to hear from you and work through your ideas with you.