Ethics & Sustainability
A statement from Designer and Creator, Lauren —
A Responsible Brand
Living my personal life in a way that is mindful of my own impact on the environment, it is important to me that this awareness and approach are also intrinsic to Ara the altar as a responsible brand. My values concerning ethics and the environment inform every business decision with a view to making conscious choices. My aim is to provide assurance for like-minded individuals who are looking to make long lasting, purposeful purchases that strive for minimal impact on our only planet.
A key environmental issue that fuels me is the need to minimise waste and excess, and to promote a circular economy. Ara the altar’s commitment to ethics and sustainability does not stop at the use of recycled precious metal or recycled packaging materials. Careful considerations are made at every step of the production process, and thereafter, to manage the entire journey of an Ara the altar piece, explored in more detail below.
Whilst I remain small in operational size I strive to make the most impactful decisions within my power. Here, I recognise that there will always be potential for improvement and, as I grow, I look forward to continuing to learn and to invest in greater improvements throughout my business.
When it comes to managing and reducing our environmental impact, we as humans are all in this together; I strongly believe that the more we can do to share knowledge and support one another, the better. I am keen to provide a transparent operation; if you have any questions about my practices, or suggestions for considerations to further support my ethical and sustainable commitment, please do not hesitate to contact me - I would love to hear from you.
Recycled Precious Metal
I commit to using only 100% recycled precious metal to reduce waste, environmental impact and repurpose existing material into something beautiful, with a conscience. For longevity, all of my pieces are made from solid silver or gold, never plated or gold filled.
It is important to me that Ara the altar does not support environmentally damaging practices that pull precious metal out of the earth. With plenty of material already in circulation, for me, there is no justification for contributing to the level of harm caused by the precious metal and mineral mining industry.
From an ethical standpoint I recognise the importance of Fairtrade certification mining to enable improved social conditions for workers. Yet, whilst contribution to the mining industry does not support my own values concerning waste reduction and the environment, I choose to commit to working with recycled precious metal only.
In addition to using only recycled precious metal in my own production practices, I also commit to using only recycled precious metal chains and findings (earring scrolls, earring posts and jump rings) to accompany my pieces. I personally do not feel comfortable with contradicting my fundamental values by supplying non-recycled chains or findings with my pieces. For this reason, finding the right suppliers and making many of my own findings increases both the time and monetary investments required when creating my collections; these choices make Ara the altar the responsible brand that I am proud to be developing.
Similarly, when considering the clouded standards associated with the hugely destructive mineral mining industry, and the limited assurances offered by many suppliers at present, Ara the altar does not work with gemstones.
European Linen & GOTS Certified Organic Cotton
Every piece of Ara adornment is now accompanied by a natural linen & GOTS certified organic cotton pouch, thoughtfully designed & made in-house. To me, it feels counter intuitive to waste energy and resources creating packaging that would provide little value, use or longevity for my customers. Instead, I wanted to create a product that would be long-lasting and functional, in which to keep Ara pieces safe.
After many months of searching for the most sustainable and ethical fabric suitable for this project, I fell for a beautifully tactile, twill cloth, woven on a Jacquard loom in Lancashire. The fabric is constructed of linen weft yarn, made from certified European Flax in France by a Masters of Linen certified company. The linen weft yarn is woven across GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified organic cotton warp yarns. The fabric was then finished without bleach treatment in a specialist finishing mill up the road in Yorkshire.
My partner, David and I developed a design that would produce minimal waste. Consequently, we chose to design a little pouch that would not rely on a drawstring closure (again to further minimise waste) and we developed a design based on a simple, repeatable rectangle to ensure minimal, if any, fabric waste. It was important that the production of the bags reflected the production of the pieces: slow. For this project, David has learnt to sew on a Singer sewing machine from 1921. By managing the production of the bags in house, using GOTS certified natural organic cotton thread, and traditional production methods powered by 100% renewable energy, Ara the altar can continue to tread even more lightly whilst creating our earth-aware offerings.
I chose to work with undyed, European linen due to its little reliance on pesticides and water, and organic cotton for its associated reduced environmental and social impacts including: avoiding the use of toxic pesticides responsible for poisoning wildlife, rivers, and killing an estimated 16,000 people every year; to meet biodegradability standards; to support the working condition requirements associated with GOTS certified organic textiles; and helping to lock CO2 into the soil (in turn, helping to mitigate climate change). For more information about the benefits of organic cotton you may wish to visit https://www.soilassociation.org/organic-living/fashion-textiles/organic-cotton/
All of my pieces are packaged using only recycled, recyclable and biodegradable packaging materials.
Orders are accompanied by ink free, blind debossed business stationery, hand produced on recycled card stock by a small independent UK based company who take responsibility for ensuring sustainability throughout their own production practices.
Every order is complemented with a stalk of dried lavender or a piece of seasonal foliage that I either forage myself or source from local independent suppliers.
To avoid including unnecessary packaging, packing slips are not included unless specifically requested by the customer.
Slow & Small | In hand with the slow fashion movement, for longevity and to minimise waste I make every piece to order, slowly by hand, in my workshop in North West England. This means I operate at a standard 1-2 week turnaround.
Recycling | Whilst I strive to produce minimal waste, to help me manage and monitor any waste as a result of my production, I operate a recycling system which I separate into three categories: paper and card waste for recycling; organic cotton or biodegradable waste for composting; and non-recyclable waste. The latter category might, for example, generate items such as plastic packaging from a tool purchase. Monitoring my waste in this way enables me to identify areas for improvement and to make more informed purchasing decisions in the future. Of course, I also recycle any precious metal scrap!
Vegan | I ensure that my own production process is vegan; I do not use industry standard polishing compounds that contain animal derivatives and I refrain from any items that contain beeswax, leather or rawhide throughout my production process. These non animal-friendly practices are rarely exposed; there is seemingly little awareness of the use of animal products in the jewellery industry. Whilst these items can be challenging to avoid, it was important for me to address this within my own production and I look forward to seeing improvements made within the industry to tackle this in the future as awareness grows.
Tools | I choose manufacturing tools that are primarily made from metal and wood, rather than plastic. Where some of my tools do have plastic elements, these purchasing decisions are not made lightly. For example, to offer a vegan production process, I choose to use a UK made wooden and metal mallet that has nylon faces, rather than a wooden mallet with a rawhide head, from an unknown origin. Whilst I do have some tools that have plastic components (e.g. pliers etc.) I use them where alternatives are not available to me and such pieces have a long-life expectancy.
Whilst I aim to undertake as much as possible in house, where I do need to work with suppliers, I choose those who demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, ethical working practices and those who predominantly use recycled and recyclable packaging materials. For example, my casting supplier also works with only recycled precious metal and, aware of the natural environment in which it operates, works to minimise its carbon dioxide production.
I source the fabric for my bags with UK based company, Bysshe, who source fully traceable, European yarns, and weave them into beautiful fabric, here in the UK. This small, independent company ensures “the highest quality at the lowest environmental cost, developing fabrics for a sustainable future”.
My recycled 925 sterling silver supplier uses carbon neutral shipping and recycled and biodegradable postal packaging. After repeatedly asking for a move away from the silver to be supplied in plastic bags, this supplier have now moved to biodegradable packaging. My recycled gold is produced to order for me by a more local supplier, in Derbyshire, which helps to minimise Ara’s carbon footprint.
Generally, I purchase materials in bulk to minimise excess packaging, which I repurpose for storage purposes wherever I can, to help minimise waste.
Again, should you have any queries concerning my ethical & sustainable commitment, or should you have any considerations to share, please do not hesitate to contact me