Designed with the Environment in Mind

Last month, I wrote about how I strive to make products that are Midwest-made and USA-sourced. Now I want to share why sustainability matters to me and is a major component of Hazelmade.

In 2006, I graduated from Kent State University, threw my plans to the wind and moved to Fort Collins, Colorado. Shortly after, I got an internship at the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to sustainability and creating a clean, low-carbon future. Working there opened my eyes to my impact on the environment.

While at RMI, I remember making a flyer on a 8.5x11-inch page, working in the middle. The plan was to cut it out and throw away the scrap paper along the edges. “Why don’t we make it a quarter of an inch smaller?” my manager said, suggesting we fit two flyers on the page and end up with less waste. I realized in that moment that I had never been asked to think that way before.

That conversation has rippled through everything I have done since, including the creation of Hazelmade. I strive to think about a product from start to finish and consider its waste stream. My tote bags, for example, are roughly an inch wider and taller than the standard tote. When I first approached a company in the New England area about sewing the totes, we talked about how going slightly bigger would mean zero waste. 

Most people won’t even notice the distinction, except that it makes the totes more spacious and unique. By considering these details early in the process, my partners and I are able to leave a positive impact on the environment and not sacrifice the quality of the product.

I love the problem-solving involved in sustainable work. Though I may sometimes be limited in the fabrics or paper I can choose from, the materials I select are better all around — for buyers and consumers, the future of Hazelmade and the Earth. That inspiration comes from my experiences at RMI and other places I have worked, including fabric shop Mama Said Sew where I was the brand manager and developed an annual fashion show for upcycled clothing, zero-waste coffee shop The Bean Cycle and the Fort Collins Food Co-op.

Being environmentally conscious is a value people care about more and more as they watch the planet deteriorate. If I can educate a customer on my process and how I have worked to create less waste, maybe sustainability is something they will look for in other brands. I know Hazelmade is a little company in this big, huge, giant world, but every effort counts.

As always, thank you for taking the time to catch up with me and learn about Hazelmade. If you notice a maker’s products are sustainable — whether mine or those of another brand — chances are, they’ve got other neat ideas and are thinking deeply about how what they make touches you and the world. It has been a joy to share my products and stories with you.

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A very special thank you to Valerie Royzman
for her incredible talent in helping me craft this piece.

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