I have been doing some polishing up of the website and I realized there's not a lot written about what we've been doing to make the world a little greener. So now you can find it in the menu - and since it's nearly as long as a blog post already, it will be here as well.
Our work is heavily influenced by John Ruskin and William Morris in style but more importantly in principles: craft, art, nature, and social ethics inform all our decisions. People can hardly make art when they are struggling to survive, so we pay a living wage and fight for a better, kinder world with donations, time off to vote, petitions, protests, and an eye to sustainability in everything we do.
Hankies vs. Tissues
The hankie vs. tissue debate may never end, though several things point to hankies (specifically linen hankies) being the most environmentally friendly. Tissues can’t be recycled, and typically cannot be composted well by normal means due to additives. They are often made from virgin lumber, not post-consumer recycled pulp, and are extensively bleached.
Handkerchiefs can be used again and again for years, lessening carbon waste. They take far less energy and far less water than paper tissues, even factoring in washing. Speaking of, think of your hankies like underwear and socks – a fresh one (or more, as needed) every day. Ours can be washed by hand or by machine, so you can toss them right in the hamper when they become soiled.
Sustainability Benefits - Linen vs. Cotton
Linen, made from the flax plant, is one of our oldest cultivated fibers (archaeological evidence shows it used as woven fabric a stunning 36,000 years ago) and is one of the lowest-impact. As a bast fiber, it is far stronger than cotton, and softens over time without linting up. That, combined with its moisture-wicking and antibacterial properties, making it a favored choice for bandages.
Flax takes far less resources to grow. Only 6.4 liters of water are needed to make a linen shirt – compared to 2,700 liters to make a comparable cotton one. It requires less herbicides and pesticides, too. Additionally, more of the plant can be used – flax seed and linseed oil are both harvested from flax. Much of the growing, harvesting, and processing of flax into linen is done by hand, reducing carbon emissions and keeping alive traditional farming methods. European flax sequesters 250,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, too.
If you’re looking for the very most sustainable linen hankies, our oatmeal handkerchiefs are not dyed or bleached – they are the lovely natural color of the flax fiber. You can find them here.
Packaging - Recyclable and Biodegradable
Our boxes, envelopes, business cards, and unbleached kraft paper wrappers are all fully curbside-recyclable. Depending on your local recycling plant, they may or may not take tissue paper; if they do, great! Ours is compostable, so even if they don’t you can always put it in your compost bin as well as the little bow we tie your order up with, which is raffia, a compostable fiber as well.
Every year, we plant trees through the National Forest Foundation to reforest after wildfires, aid in carbon sequestration, and provide habitat for at-risk species. We have a special box at checkout if you’d like to contribute to this cause. If not, that’s alright – we’ll still plant at least a hundred trees yearly anyway. Our trees have sequestered more carbon than we could ever produce, making us not carbon-neutral but actively carbon-negative, meaning Broiderie Stitch is actually making the world a cooler place. So far (May 2022), we’ve planted 460 trees.
Reducing Studio Waste
Waste not, want not – and we do produce some waste knots and snips of thread stitching up orders. Whenever our snips teacup is full, we wrap up the snips to form the center of a new temari ball. Temari have been wrapped around scraps of cloth, thread, or rice hulls for hundreds of years, so this small but beautiful measure of sustainability has a long cultural background.
We buy our linen by the bolt from Ireland and cut it to have just a narrow strip of selvedge left over from a batch of hankies. It’s too good to throw away, so when we have a basket full, we dye them and quilt them together to make other articles.
We produce very little waste in the studio, and what isn’t reused in other ways like thread, linen, and scrap paper is recyclable. With luck our next studio location will be compost-friendly, and then we will be completely waste-free! Maybe then we will be able to stick some solar panels on the roof too…