Sustainability In The Photographic Industry
This is a blog written for the Black Sheep Bride
The other day I saw the video of “Henry the Environmentalist” on Facebook, have you seen it?
Like Henry, I was seven years old the first time I had heard about the struggles of our planet. I was in horror after the teacher, at school, said spray cans and refrigerators had a toxic gas that destroy the ozone layer. I’m pretty sure this fact would not have meant anything to anyone else, including myself, except for one key factor: I lived in Punta Arenas, Chile, right underneath the big ozone depletion .
I came home that day, and jumped in front of the fridge every time my mom attempted to cook. I was determined to prevent her from releasing any more CFC’s into the atmosphere.
You see, there are some people that cannot live without thinking about the consequences of devastation, or how things here, affect others elsewhere (like in other countries) and I am one of those people.
This is why, when photography and I crossed our paths, I knew right away that I didn’t want to contribute to a careless industry. My heart believed in preserving memories, but at the same time, I didn’t want to preserve memories at the cost of our planet or other people.
The industry of photographic products can be so toxic, that workers can end up with severe skin burns, when coatings are applied to prints. This issue gets magnified, when the photographic labs outsource to underdeveloped countries where safety is not a priority, nor is there a priority to be polite to our planet.
Over the past weeks, I have reached out to different photographic labs, and I decided to highlight those who are making things different and taking the “green” stand for you, the Ethically Minded Engaged Couple and for some of us, the Curious Eco-Photographer/Wedding Professional, but first, let me explain two concepts: Sustainable & Ethical.
Has a relationship with the control of contamination and how much they care when it comes to the environment.
Has a relationship with the practices regarding consumerism.
Often times, a lab that has an ethical standard is environmentally friendly, but not necessarily.
Why should engaged couples care?
The level of pollutants in a photo print are pretty high. Think of all the chemicals that come together to coat your picture, album, or photo book. Then, think of the residual effects of these chemicals. Then, think of the paper, in the deforestation produced. Then, think of packaging: Boxes, tissue papers, paper bags, ribbons, plastic… Do you follow me?
If you are ready to start a family, isn’t it logical to think of the planet you are going to leave to your future children? And when it comes to ethical, wouldn’t it be better to purchase products and services produced in a way that minimizes social and/or environmental damage?
So for you, the ethically minded bride and/or groom,
I have 2 suggestions:
- First, ALWAYS prefer photographers (LIKE MOI !) who have a clear standpoint regarding sustainability and ethics. In the same way your grocery shopping is determined: you buy organics because you want no pesticides, you prefer sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup, you buy things with no dye, etc; make a point to choose a professional photographer who is committed to this cause, and if the photographer of your choice is not ethically minded, then ask for it! I know we have to ask in order to be given.
- If you plan to print your own images (whether they are from your phone or from a usb), prefer companies who make a commitment with the environment.
But how do you know what lab is sustainable? No worries, my suggestion is here:
Based in Colorado, this consumer based lab was created by photographers with the intention of offering good quality products with a sustainable approach. You’ll find many of their products use recycled and reclaimed materials. Their aim is not only to create products that won’t end up in a landfill, but by using recycled papers, they limit what gets to the landfill in the first place.
What makes them especially awesome?: The pages of their books are made of 100% Post-Consumer Waste (PCW) recycled paper, and they’ve given new uses for wood from trees killed by the mountain pine beetle – otherwise considered waste.
Everything they manufacture is done in America, so by making things at home, they empower the economy of our country (yay 'Murica!)
But my favorite thing about AU is their partnership with SKCAC, a non-profit based in Seattle, whose team proudly assembles and brands the calendars and wood blocks sets, providing jobs for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Artifact Uprising is proud to empower them and to have them as a part of their vision.
Now, let’s talk with the professionals:
Why should a professional photographer care about Ethical Consumerism?
There is a bible verse that says “And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”.
I like to apply that same thinking process to our industry: How will the consumer buy, if nobody is offering them the right products?
Early on my career path, I made a commitment to offer only fair trade products, and I quickly realized that I was not alone in the search for responsible printing. This means that there is demand, and you as a photographer are responsible for offering your clients products that fulfill their demands.
In the past, people thought that “green” was equivalent to lower quality, but thanks to media, this idea is now left behind, and consumers know that ethical, sustainable solutions mean better quality, more attention to detail, and an altogether more responsible industry, a win win.
My lab of choice (and where 90% of my products come from is (drum roll) Loktah Lab, and the reason I am sharing this with you, is to inspire other photographers, and to tell my clients where their products come from.
Loktah Lab is located in West Monroe, Louisiana Was founded in 2008 with a desire to provide eco-friendly packaging alternatives to replace the lackluster plastic cases common to the photography and videography industries.
I spent a long time talking to the founder, Joshua, who patiently explained to me, how the company is committed to ethical practices.
Lokta paper is a wildcrafted, handmade artisan paper indigenous to Nepal. It is made with an ancient technique that shaves the bark of the trees, producing a pulp that is laid out flat to sun dry. The paper itself is one of the most sustainable papers on the planet, and is known for being socially responsible. The production of the paper has helped to empower the local people and revitalize their culture.
The certified fair trade sheets of paper, are then imported for the workers at the lab to mold into beautiful boxes, right here, in the USA.
The fabrics used by the lab in the production of packaging and album covers is hand woven hemp, produced by local artisans.
The inks are water based, and the pigments used in the printing process are part of a new zero waste technology that is not animal derived, making them stand above other labs for their vegetarian product line.
While other are using harsh chemicals, LoktaH lab is the only lab in the country that offers a water based coating that is environmentally friendly and safe for the workers.
The company is continuously seeking ways to enhance their commitment to the customers and to the planet, and to engage other professionals to jump on the bandwagon of ethical consumerism.
As you can see, I am not THAT crazy. Photography, Sustainability and Ethical Consumerism do go hand in hand, and is everyone's job to make a happy(er) better world.
Thank you for reading this, and just so you know, these opinions are solely my own, because I am a very opinionated person. No compensation was received.
Read the original article in the Black Sheep Bride blog HERE