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My Sustainable Life, Part I

Posted on April 21 2018

Many of you may know that I am passionate about style and sustainability, and how to marry the two. Over the past month, I attended a few events that involved panel discussions on the topic.  These events got me thinking about how living sustainably extends not just to my work and what we wear, but to all aspects of our lives. 
At "Future Looks: Sustainable & Ethical Fashion," held at The Wing, we heard from Aurora James of ethical fashion brand Brother Vellies, the Business of Fashion's Lauren Sherman and a prominent stylist, Meredith Koop. At "The New Sustainability" at Fashion Group International, the Council of Fashion Designers of America's Sara Kozlowski moderated a panel with Burak Cakmak Dean of Parson's School of Fashion, and Hassan Pierre, co-founder of Maison-de-Mode and Eileen Fisher's Amy Hall. I also attended the eighth annual Gold Conference, where I was lucky enough to be surrounded by many of the founders and current leaders of the green fine jewelry movement, like jewelry designer Toby Pomeroy, Monica Stephenson of Anza Gems and our retail partner Nina Farran of FashionKind.  
The panel at  Future Looks: Sustainable & Ethical Fashion. photo via @odmodc
 
I learned a lot at these events, but at the end of the day, what I felt you would all like most to hear is how to live sustainably. Every choice we make, combined with all the choices everyone else makes each day, that add up to real impact. While I try to incorporate sustainability into my every day life, the events made me realize that there are many out there who want to make a difference. That inspired me to share a few ways I live sustainably, and you can, too.
First of all, I am far from perfect. Unfortunately, it is impossible to be 100% carbon footprint-free in our modern lifestyles. But there are little tweaks or ways of thinking we can all shift that make a difference. 
None of what I am about to say are novel concepts, but making conscious choices towards sustainability every day does not have to be difficult, and I consciously wanted to show you that.
The New Sustainability panel waiting to commence. photo via @fginyc
 

How I strive for sustainability at Dana Bronfman Fine Jewelry 

First of all, you may be aware that I strive to work as sustainably as possible in my designs and business. I create everything locally in New York City, and work closely, in person, with my jewelers, and pay them fairly for their excellent craftsmanship. I also aim to source the highest quality of gemstones and metals so they have the utmost integrity and can shine to their full potential, making the price, which I am aware is not cheap, fair. Quality means these materials last forever, and I aim to design timeless designs that you can pass down to your children, and they can pass on to their children's children. Pieces my grandmother owned that I now am lucky to have are my most prized possessions. I design pieces that are versatile, and one can get a lot of use out of, which allows people to get a high cost-per-wear, consume less, and take more pride in the things they own to produce less waste.  

In terms of aesthetic, my signature "oculus" symbolizes the opening of space to connect people, both to each other as they remember the story of who gave them that piece or what buying that piece for themselves symbolizes, as well as to the materials themselves, which come from the earth and remind people to treasure and be grateful for what nature provides. Feeling more connected allows us to act more consciously every day.  

 photo from our Create a Story Uniquely Yours campaign, which aims to show how the pieces can be worn to transform with different individuals and different roles people play in life, allowing them to express themselves freely.

A big contributing factor to quality is origin, so we source materials as responsibly as we can. We use reclaimed sources whenever possible and support fair trade and fairmined initiatives. 

  

Reclaimed diamonds in reclaimed gold bezels before they are soldered onto a reclaimed 18k gold or sterling silver piece of jewelry.

We also aim to support and work with organizations that align with our company values, such as Pure Earth. Their work focuses on helping clean up toxic pollution in the world's poorest communities. A huge part of this is teaching artisanal gold miners, for one, how to mine for gold without using mercury, which ends up poisoning them and their families, and how to do so in a way that ends up getting them more gold to better provide for their families. 

  

Their annual gala on April 23 will auction fine jewelry pieces from various designers, one of my designs included, made from reclaimed gold to benefit Pure Earth's continuous efforts. Read why I decided to participate, for the third time this year, and more, in this Facebook Q&A, and click the link above to bid on some amazing jewelry for an amazing cause.

    Voting with Your Dollars
    Meredith Koop used the words "voting with your dollars," and I found this the perfect example of how we can support businesses who are making an effort to be sustainable and create impact of some kind. When you spend money with a business, you are literally supporting their work, whatever that may be. Choose to support businesses you feel good about supporting. I like to vote with my dollars for the kind of world I want to see, and I'll give some examples later in this post as well as in next week's post, but one simple example is going to the woman-owned small coffee shop down the street rather than the Starbucks, even if it's slightly more expensive, I want to see a world with more small restaurants than chains, and live in a world where people can start businesses and have the opportunity to thrive.
    And when I am finished, I rinse the cup and lid and recycle them, of course.
    How I strive for Sustainability when Running Errands
    When I am grocery shopping, I try to buy containers that do not use plastic as much as possible. When I am buying fruit or vegetables, I do not use the little plastic bags they have everywhere, I simply put them in my basket. It doesn't make life any harder for anyone, and those little plastic bags are just unnecessary, take hundreds of years to decompose, take oil to produce so push up global demand for oil, etc. 
    I recently read that in 30 years, our oceans will be filled with more plastic bags than fish. How sad is this? 
    I use as few bags as possible whether shopping for groceries or at a pharmacy. While I try to bring my own bags, sometimes I find myself caught buying something without space in my purse or tote bag and need a bag to carry it. Pay attention. People who bag your items often put way fewer things in a bag than necessary, giving you way more bags than necessary. When this happens, I take the items out and put them all in one bag or as few bags as possible.  
    This is all part of living a lifestyle that is less wasteful. Doing these things can inspire those around us. You might make the checkout person think that maybe it would be not only more environmentally-friendly but also efficient to give fewer bags. Many years ago, I was shopping for produce with a friend and saw him not use all those little plastic bags, and that made me think that maybe it was unnecessary. My friends and role models have inspired me. Who knows who might be noticing your behavior and get inspired by it.
    How I aim for Sustainability at Home 
    The same way I made the conscious decision to work with reclaimed materials in my jewelry collections, I consciously do the same with a lot of products and things I have in my own home. For cleaning products, I like non-toxic brands such as Seventh Generation, and always recycled paper products whenever I must use them. I also recycle everything. It is easy to do so and also to compost coffee grinds, banana peels, and eggshells, and food scraps.
    photo via seventh generation website. 
    The things in your home also matter. Do you know where the furniture in your home came from? When I moved to New York in 2014, I furnished my apartment with previously owned furniture, and for pieces I was missing, I visited Housing Works, a thrift store with eclectic and fun finds. Abc Carpet & Home is also another option I really like. It is more on the higher-end of household furniture, but the pieces are beautiful and from artists and companies I feel good about supporting. ABC is a department store that overall aims to reduce our overall environmental footprint, and they show that through the brands they offer in their store, in furniture, skin care, and even through the incredible farm-to-table restaurants they have at the store.  
    Sustainability in my Self-Care Routine 
    I also choose to stay away from beauty products with toxic ingredients. The more natural, the better.  It is hard because, if you know me, you know I love cosmetics, but I understand what is listed on the label. What we put on our skin and hair does affect the environment as well as our own health. Here are some of the products I love from brands I love supporting that are organic and natural: Balance Face Oil by Linné Botanicals Clear Skin Probiotic Cleanser by EminenceBE GENTLE, BE KIND avocado + quinoa co-wash by Briogeo, and Dr. Bronner's Certified Fair Trade Hemp-Peppermint Pure-Castille Soap (which, by the way, you can use for cleaning your house and washing dishes, not just your body!). There may be a bias that natural products don't work as well, but I have found the opposite to be true. I've always struggled with my skin, but it has become much clearer and brighter since I started using these products a few years ago, and my hair has become stronger.

     
    I hope this has been but a glimmer of inspiration and shows you that it's not so hard to make small tweaks in your life to live sustainably. Many of you are probably already doing the above. If so, go you! If not, I hope you take today, Earth Day, to think about how you can respect our environment in your daily life. 
    Are you enjoying what I have shared so far? 
    Part II will be coming next week, when I'll share how I strive for sustainability in other aspects of my life, at the end of Fashion Revolution Week!  Stay tuned. Be sure to follow us on Instagram (@danabronfman) and sign up for our newsletter below to hear when the post goes live. 

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