Jewelry Designer Sharon Zimmerman on Why Become a Certified Green Business and How To Do It

When one thinks of jewelry, responsible environmental and business practices aren’t necessarily the first things that come to mind. With our growing concern and awareness about what our food and clothing is made of and how it is produced, shouldn’t jewelry, often our most precious possessions, be held to a similar standard? San Francisco jewelry designer Sharon Zimmerman thinks so, and she thinks you should too. Here she tells us how she became a certified SF Green Business and shares tips that any business can, and should, implement.

I’ve been running an eco-friendly business since 2011, so why go through the trouble of being certified by SF Green Business? In a nutshell, I did it because I believe in it and because I think that you do too. Committing to environmental security, clean air, and clean water doesn’t end with recycled metals and diamonds, it extends into every decision that I make for my life and my business. SF Green Business provides framework, suggestions, and guidelines for maintaining my commitment to clean water and clean air for all humans. Going through this process meant taking a hard look at all of the chemicals used in the jewelry-making process, looking at everything from our floor cleaner to our hand soap, and making sure that they weren’t causing harm.

Some of the practices I had in place needed some serious updating, and other practices had been in place for a long time. The tricky thing about being in a commercial rental property is that I’m not always in control of how the building operates. For instance, I can’t tell the building what kind of toilet paper to buy, but I can lobby them to provide aerators in their faucets to reduce water flow (SF Green Business provides these). SF Green Business will also work with the building owners on your behalf to help them adopt green business practices.

“This process is a four-year commitment to maintaining these standards and to continually seek out better alternatives for my business and for my life. I am thrilled to be a part of this process.”

Here is just a sampling of the policies that have been adopted in the studio:

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
Nailed this one! We’ve been recycling everything in the studio (including our metal scrap) forever. It was nice to implement a composting plan too.

Purchase environmentally preferable products
I’ve long been a believer in using eco-friendly products, but to meet this demand I had to dig into the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) on a number of products. Boy howdy was that a fun time.

Conserve energy, water, and natural resources
Signs went up around the studio reminding us to turn out the lights, not run the water too long and to recycle. Al Gore reminds everyone in the studio to turn out the lights before we leave.

In addition to adopting the SF Green Business Practices, I go a few steps further by applying rigorous standards to my jewelry-making:

Reuse metal scrap within the studio lots of designs start off as scraps of metal that are re-melted into new jewelry including these earrings.

Use only (solar-powered) lab-created diamonds, recycled diamonds and recycled sapphires – we use Fair Mined and Fair Trade gemstones when they are available.

Use minimal, recycled and compostable packaging to ship out your fabulous jewelry – the shipping boxes are small and compostable, the ribbon is reusable, the gift boxes are 100% recycled and even the shipping labels are both 100% recycled content and totally compostable.

Supporting other Certified Green Businesses is my new mantra and I was thrilled recently with my new business cards from Greener Printer. I’ll for sure be using them for future printing projects like postcards and booklets. They use low-VOC inks and recycled paper, and because they are in the Bay Area, I can reduce my carbon footprint by ordering products that are closer to home.

There were a lot more regulations than this and I encourage you to check out their roster of Bay Area businesses that are also certified green. This process is a four-year commitment to maintaining these standards and to continually seek out better alternatives for my business and for my life. I am thrilled to be a part of this process.

Visit the Sharon Z Jewelry profile

This post originally featured on Sharon’s blog, where you can also read about her take on “Conflict-Free” Diamonds, Recycled Gold, Ethical Gemstones and more.

Photos of Sharon in studio courtesy of Ryan Leggett

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