Phyllis & Elsie and Sustainability

Hello beautiful humans,

These days, more and more of us are trying to be conscious consumers and care about the impact our spending has. It can be so challenging to find the information we need to be confident in our choices! 

With that in mind, I wanted to take a few moments to share with you some of the things that are really important to Phyllis & Elsie.

Making jewelry with traditional materials (metal and stones) is a process that unfortunately has some unavoidable environmental impacts. While I can't magically form metal and gems out of thin air the way I'd like to (oh what a dream that would be...), there are steps that I take to minimize the negative impact of sourcing these materials.

Phyllis & Elsie uses a combination of .925 Sterling Silver and .999 Fine Silver in all designs. All of the silver in my designs is nickel and lead free, with sterling consisting of an alloy of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5 percent copper. Whenever possible (which is very often) I source silver material and components that have been made with recycled silver to reduce Phyllis & Elsie's demand for newly mined ore. Additionally, I collect scraps, filings, and even dust and used sandpapers from my studio, all of which are sent to a refinery to recover the precious metals. Its incredible how much potential waste we are able to recover and make new again!

When sourcing gems I feel very strongly that considering the environmental and human impacts is critical. Starting in 2019 I committed to sourcing stones exclusively from dealers whom I trust to provide material that has been sourced sustainably and ethically. I do have a varied collection of stones from before 2019 that were purchased from other artists' old stock de-stashes that I unfortunately cannot vouch for the provenance of. I value your trust and designs featuring these stones will not be labeled as "Ethically Sourced".

I have a very short list of gem vendors from whom I purchase stones now, all of whom are either small family/individual businesses with long-running connections to trusted mines and gem cutters, or larger operations that have met the strict sustainability and ethical standards to qualify for membership with the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA). In two cases, I am purchasing gems directly from the lapidary artists themselves, which ensures an extra level of confidence regarding fair compensation for labor. Keep an eye out for future blog posts with interviews and more information from my gem vendors, they are incredible artists and have insight into a world most of us never see!

One of the sustainability aspects of Phyllis & Elsie that I have the most direct control over is packaging waste! I have taken steps to minimize any plastic in the packaging and shipping of your orders and hope very soon to have found recyclable and/or biodegradable alternatives to all plastic use in my packaging, while still providing you with a beautiful unboxing experience! I use natural paper boxes, pad shipping boxes with kraft paper or shredded recycled paper, and the little clear bags that your polishing cloths and other items are packed in are actually made entirely from plants and are biodegradable! The tape and ribbon I use to jazz up your packages is all made of paper and you could literally toss it in your home compost!

At this time my jewelry boxes do still contain polyester or foam padding that is petroleum-based. I tried to replace it with natural cotton padding, but that caused problems with tarnish on the silver and I am actively searching for a better option. You may soon find that your jewelry is arriving packed with a velvet-flocked paper insert instead of fluff, which I think is an improvement, but the velvet fibers are still polyester so I'm not satisfied yet. 

Since migrating my website to Shopify, I am very pleased to announce that Phyllis & Elsie is now investing in carbon offsets to neutralize the emissions involved in getting jewelry from my studio to you. This is one small way that I can take accountability for an unavoidable impact of doing business.

There are always opportunities to grow and improve, and as a one-person show that progress can take time. Regardless, it is my sincerest desire and intent to continue improving and reducing the footprint that my little business has on this beautiful planet. 

- Shanna Barrow

Founder, Jeweler, and all other things Phyllis & Elsie